Geraldine O’Connor

Senior Lecturer

School of Medicine

Harrington Building, HA210

+44 (0) 1772 89 6315

go-connor1@uclan.ac.uk

Subject Areas: Biosciences

Dr O’Connor teaches immunology and haematology in the School of Medicine. Her interests are focused on the innate immune system and the Natural Killer (NK) cell subset. Much of her research examines how genetic variation between individuals impacts immune function, and how this may ultimately alter disease outcomes.

Full Profile

While studying for a degree in Biochemistry in Trinity College Dublin Dr O’Connor developed an avid interest in the human immune system and stayed on to do a PhD in Immunology within the School of

Biochemistry and Immunology.  After completion of her PhD she spend several years as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute within the NIH in the US before moving as a research fellow to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne.

Throughout her research career, she has worked on various aspects of the human immune system including research on human immunodeficiency (both genetic and acquired), and in understanding how differences between individuals impacts their immune function and ultimately their health.

Qualifications
  • PG Cert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Chester, 2017
  • PhD Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, 2007
  • BA(mod) Biochemistry, Trinity College Dublin, 2002

Publications

De Ravin, S. S., Wu, X., Moir, S., Anaya-O'Brien, S., Kwatemaa, N., Littel, P., . . . Kardava, L. (2016). Lentiviral hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy for X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency. Sci Transl Med, 8(335), 335ra357. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aad8856

O'Connor, G. M., Vivian, J. P., Gostick, E., Pymm, P., Lafont, B. A., Price, D. A., . . . McVicar, D. W. (2015). Peptide-Dependent Recognition of HLA-B*57:01 by KIR3DS1. J Virol, 89(10), 5213-5221. doi:10.1128/JVI.03586-14

O'Connor, G. M., Vivian, J. P., Widjaja, J. M., Bridgeman, J. S., Gostick, E., Lafont, B. A., . . . McVicar, D. W. (2014). Mutational and structural analysis of KIR3DL1 reveals a lineage-defining allotypic dimorphism that impacts both HLA and peptide sensitivity. J Immunol, 192(6), 2875-2884. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1303142

Pymm, P., Illing, P. T., Ramarathinam, S. H., O'Connor, G. M., Hughes, V. A., Hitchen, C., . . . Vivian, J. P. (2017). MHC-I peptides get out of the groove and enable a novel mechanism of HIV-1 escape. Nat Struct Mol Biol, 24(4), 387-394. doi:10.1038/nsmb.3381

More publications

Memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Royal Society of Biology
  • Member of the British Society for Immunology

Projects

  1. Impact of Genetic Variants on Protein Function and Immune Outcome
    The way in which NK cells are activated is complex, and involves the integration of inputs from a variety of cell surface receptors. One such family of receptors is the Killer Cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptors (KIR). These receptors are found on Natural Killer and T cells and are thus well positioned to control both innate and adaptive immune responses. These receptors, which interact with the highly polymorphic HLA molecules, are themselves high variable. Previous work had explored the functional consequences of the genetic variation seen within this family – how this impacts on protein structure and expression, cell surface levels, as well as interaction with their HLA ligands.  Ultimately, these changes at the genetic level may impact protein behaviour and thus NK cell function and the outcome of immune challenges. To explore this, this project aims to identify ways in which variation in HLA, presented peptide, and KIR may interact to alter the signal generated.
  2. Killer Immunoglobulin-like Receptors in Cancer
    The function of Killer Immunoglobulin-like Receptors is best understood in NK cells, but in healthy individuals a small proportion of T cells also express KIR, which may influence their function. In contrast to the low expression on healthy T cells, in a number of pathological conditions KIR expression on T cells is increased. This project explores the expression of KIR on cancers derived from T cells, and exploring how KIR expression may be contributing to initiation and/or progression of cancer. Identification of the role of KIR in these cancers may identify an additional target for cancer therapies.

Teaching activities and responsibilities

Lecturer:

  • MBBS
  • BSc Medical Sciences
  • Physician Associates