Professor Graham Anderson PhD, BSc

Professor Graham Anderson

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
Professor of Experimental Immunology

Contact details

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Graham Anderson is a Professor of Experimental Immunology in The Institute of Immunology and Immuntherapy.

For the last 25 years, Graham's research has focused on T-cell development and thymus development and function, including mechanisms of immune tolerance. He holds an MRC programme grant, a Cancer Immunology grant from CRUK, and PhD studentship funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau.

In this video Professor Graham Anderson describes his background and career to date, what drives his research and how it affects the world.  He discusses his research work with postgraduates from the UK and overseas - and explains our unique relationship with the University of Tokushima in Japan.


  • PhD Immunology 1993
  • BSc (Hons) Anatomical Studies 1987


Graham Anderson gained a BSc (Hons) in Anatomical Studies from the University of Birmingham in 1990. He then studied for a PhD in Immunology as a Wellcome Prize PhD student. He then continued his research into thymus biology as a Wellcome Prize Fellow until 1994, and was appointed to a lectureship in the Department of Anatomy in 1995. Since then, Graham has continued to work in Birmingham studying the role of the thymus in the development of a self-tolerant T-cell pool.

Following project grant support from The Wellcome Trust, and MRC Programme Grant support, Graham was appointed to a Chair in T-Lymphocyte Biology in 1995.

He has acted as as a member of the ARUK Research Subcommittee (2007-2009), as Deputy Chairman (2009-2012) and as a member of the ARUK Programme Triage Committee (2010-2012). 

Graham has served on the Editorial Boards of 'Journal of 'Immunology' ‘European Journal of Immunology’ and ‘Trends in Immunology’, and 'Frontiers in Immunological Tolerance'. He is currently a member of the Wellcome Trust Expert Review Group ‘Immune System In Health and Disease’, and a Scientific Advisory Board member for activities in The Universities of Glasgow and Oxford, and the KG Jebsen Centre for Autoimmune Disorders, in Norway.



Postgraduate supervision

Graham supervises doctoral research students in the areas of thymus biology and T-cell development.
If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Graham on the contact deatils above, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email: or call +44 (0)121 414 5005.
For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.



T-cell biology, Thymus and T-cell development, T-cell Tolerance and Immunity.



Major laboratory interests focus on the mechanisms that regulate the generation of a self-tolerant T-cell pool. These events occur within the thymus, an organ that provides specialised microenvironments to support the development of mature T-cells from their bone marrow derived precursors. In particular, epithelial cells within the thymus provide essential signals to these migrant precursors that regulate their proliferation, commitment, and differentiation. Defects in thymic epithelial cell development and function are known to be linked to autoimmunity and immunodeficiency, making analysis of these cells important in understanding normal immune system development and function. Specifically, we study:

Thymic Epithelial Cell Development And Function

Thymic epithelial cells provide unique environments to support the generation of a self-tolerance T-cell repertoire. Over several years we have focused on the cellular and molecular regulation of thymic epithelial cell development. Major findings include:

  • Identification of a bipotent progenitor for cortical and medullary thymic epithelium (Nature, 2006).
  • First demonstration of a role for the TNF-Receptor RANK in development of Aire-expressing medullary epithelial cells and the establishment of self-tolerance (J. Exp. Med. 2007).
  • Demonstrating the importance of thymic epithelial niches for optimal thymus growth and T-cell output (Blood 2007, J. Immunol. 2008).

T-cell Commitment, Development and Selection

As the thymus has no inherent haemopoeitic stem cell capacity, progenitors must be recruited to the thymus throughout life. We have investigated the mechanisms of thymus colonization and intrathymic T-cell development, and major findings are summarised below:

  • Thymus colonisation involves multiple T-cell progenitor subsets that home to the thymus differ in their responses to chemokines (Eur. J. Immunol. 2007)
  • Demonstration of a role for CCR9 during intrathymic T-cell development (J. Leuk. Biol. 2007).
  • Identification, of a clonal molecular signature of thymus settling progenitors (J.Immunol. 2011)

Lymphoid Tissue Inducer Cells At The Interface Between Tolerance and Immunity.

With Peter Lane’s laboratory, our research has highlighted a key role for Lymphoid Tissue Inducer (LTI) cells in the establishment of intrathymic medullary microenvironments that regulate central tolerance. Critically, we have also shown that LTI play an essential role in the generation of memory CD4+ T-cells, and we are currently investigating further the role of LTI and tolerance and immunity. Major findings include:

  • First demonstration of a role for RANKL+ LTI cells in the generation of Aire-expressing medullary epithelial cells (J. Exp. Med. 2007).
  • Identification of OX40L+ LTI as key regulators of memory CD4+ cells in the gut (J. Immunol. 2009).

 Experimental Manipulation of Lymphoid Organs In Vivo

Using techniques based on in vitro manipulation of the thymus in combination with in vivo thymus transplantation assays, we recently defined precursor-product relationships in the developmental pathway of thymic epithelial cells (Nature 2006, J. Exp. Med. 2007). Within Birmingham, we collaborate with several laboratories including those of Peter Lane, Antal Rot, Chris Buckley and Jorge Caamano to study molecular and cellular regulation of T-cell migration and responses in both primary and secondary lymphoid tissues.

Other activities

  • Deputy Chair, ARUK Research Subcommittee
  • Member, ARUK Programme Grant Triage Committee
  • Editorial Board Member, European Journal of Immunology
  • Editorial Board Member, Trends in Immunology.
  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Immunology
  • Editorial Board Member, Frontiers in Immunological Tolerance.
  • Visiting Professor, Institute for Genome Research, Unversity of Tokushima, Japan.


1) Anderson-G, Jenkinson-EJ, Moore-NC, Owen-JJT (1993). Both MHC class II+ thymic epithelial and mesenchyme cells are required for T-cell development in the thymus. Nature 362: 70-73.

2) Rossi-SW, Jenkinson-WE, Anderson-G, Jenkinson-EJ (2006). Clonal analysis reveals a progenitor bipotent for thymic cortical and medullary epithelium. Nature 441: 988-991.

3) Rossi-SW, Kim-MY, Leibbrandt-A, Parnell-SM, Jenkinson-WE, Glanville-SH, McConnell-FM, Penninger-J, Jenkinson-EJ, Lane-PJL and Anderson-G. (2007). RANK signals from CD4+3- inducer cells regulate development of Aire-expressing epithelial cells in the thymic medulla. J. Exp. Med. 204:1267-1272.

4) Roberts-N, White-A, Jenkinson-W, Turchinovich-G, Nakamura-K, Withers-D, McConnell-F, Desanti-G, Benezech-C, Parnell-S, Cunningham-A, Paolino-M, Penninger-J, Simon-K, Nitta-T, Ohigashi-I, Takahama-Y, Caamano-J, Hayday-A, Lane-P, Jenkinson-E, Anderson-G. (2012) Rank signalling links the development of invariant gamma delta T-cell progenitors and Aire+ medullary epithelium. Immunity 36: 427-437.

5) Cowan-JE, Parnell-SM, Nakamura-K, Caamano-JH, Lane-P, Jenkinson-EJ, Jenkinson-W, Anderson-G (2013). The thymus medulla is required for foxp3+ regulatory, but not conventional CD4+ thymocyte development. J. Exp. Med. 210:675-681.

6) White-AJ, Baik-S, Parnell-SM, Holland-A, Brombacher-F, Jenkinson-WE, Anderson- G (2017). A type 2 cytokine axis for thymus emigration. J. Exp. Med. 214: 2205-2216.

7) Cosway-EJ, Kucas-B, James-K, Parnell-SM, Carvalho-Gaspar-M, White-AJ, Tumanov-A, Jenkinson-W, Anderson-G (2017). Redefining thymus medulla specialisation for central tolerance. J. Exp. Med. (in press). DOI: 10.1084/jem.20171000. Published Aug 22, 2017.

View all publications in research portal


The development of the immune system; the organs in the body that support the generation of a range of cells, including lymphocytes, that are responsible for fighting infections

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