Professor Jenny Woof FRSB, FHEA
Immunoglobulins (antibodies) form a key arm of our adaptive immune system that is central to protection against infectious disease. The focus of our laboratory is structure-function relationships in immunoglobulins (Ig), with a particular emphasis on IgA, IgG and IgE.
Antibodies perform a dual role in immunity. They both recognise the foreign invader (e.g. virus or bacterium) and trigger its elimination. The elimination processes commonly result from the interaction of Igs with effector molecules, such as Fc receptors on phagocytes. We aim to develop an understanding of precisely how Igs mediate their protective functions.
IgA, the chief antibody in secretions that bathe mucosal sites such as the linings of the gut, lungs, genitourinary tract, and oral cavity, serves as one of the body’s key first lines of defence against invading microorganisms. IgG, as the main antibody in serum, plays a central role in immunity to viruses and bacteria that have breached the body's external defences. IgE offers protection against certain parasites, but is also associated with the allergic response seen in common diseases such as asthma, hayfever and eczema.
Using a genetic engineering approach we are working to define, in molecular terms, how Igs interact with a number of important molecules including receptors on immune and epithelial cells, Ig-specific proteases secreted by pathogenic bacteria, and Ig-specific binding proteins which some bacteria produce as a means to circumvent the immune response.
Our interests extend to Igs from various species including humans, cattle, and horses. Igs display surprising differences between species, necessitating study of the unique complement of Igs present in each species in order to understand their particular structural and functional characteristics.
Other interests in the lab include the development of novel monoclonal antibody reagents for treatment of certain cancers and infections such as tuberculosis. Monoclonal antibodies are now recognised as highly effective therapeutics, and next generation antibody reagents will target a wider range of diseases and exhibit enhanced efficacy.
Associate Dean Quality and Academic Standards, School of Life Sciences
- Convenor, School of Life Sciences Quality & Academic Standards Committee
- Member of University Quality and Academic Standards Committee
- Member of University’s QAA Scotland Quality Enhancement Theme team
- Convenor for Periodic Programme Review Panels in other Schools across the University
- Coordinator of successful Royal Society of Biology Accreditation bid
Current teaching includes:
- BSc Life Sciences, Level 4. Supervision of Honours projects
- BSc Life Sciences, Level 4. BS42006 Advanced Immunology module. Module manager. Deliver lectures, tutorials, and workshop.
- BSc Life Sciences, Level 3. BS32009 Immunology Module. Module manager. Deliver lectures and workshops.
- BSc Life Sciences, Level 2. BS22002 Biological Sciences module. Deliver lectures and workshops.
- BSc Life Sciences, Level 1. BS12005 Science and Society module. Deliver lectures.
- BDS, Level 2. Immunology module. Module manager. Deliver lectures and tutorial.
- MRes Cancer Biology. Deliver lectures.
- Advisor of Studies, Levels 1-5.
External Teaching Roles:
- External examiner for B.Sc. and M.Biol. Biological Sciences Programmes, University of Leeds (2017- )
- External examiner for B.Sc. Immunology, University of Edinburgh (2014-2018)
- External examiner for M.Sc. Immunology and Immunogenetics, University of Manchester (2008-2012)
- 2016 Highly Commended, School Teaching Awards for Good Practice, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee. “Rubrics in Honours project assessment: valuable aids to enhance student preparedness and promote consistency of marking”, With S Land and D Booth.
- 2016 Student Led Teaching Award Nominee. Dundee University Students Association
- 2015 Honourable mention, College Good Practice in Teaching Awards, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee. “Bringing the real life setting to Immunology teaching”. With E Furrie
- 2014 College Good Practice in Teaching Award, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee. “Enhancing student experience via a subject-specific student-coordinated ‘Society’ or interest group”
- 2014 Student Led Teaching Award Nominee, Most Inspirational Teaching of Undergraduates. Dundee University Students Association
- 2013 College Award for Innovation, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee. “Future-proofing a research led curriculum through innovative design and structure”. As part of the Biological Sciences Level 3 Curriculum development team led by L Morris
Pinheiro, A, de Sousa-Pereira, P, Strive, T, Knight, KL, Woof, JM, Esteves, PJ & Abrantes, J 2018, 'Identification of a new European rabbit IgA with a serine-rich hinge region' PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 8, e0201567, pp. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201567
Woof J.M. (2016) Immunoglobulins and their receptors, and subversion of their protective roles by bacterial pathogens. Biochem Soc Trans. 44, 1651-1658.
Spoerry C., Hessle P., Lewis M.J., Paton L., Woof J.M. and von Pawel-Rammingen U. (2016) Novel IgG-degrading enzymes of the IgdE protease family link substrate specificity to host tropism of Streptococcus species. PLoS One 11:e0164809.
van Egmond M., Bakema J.E. and Woof J.M. (2015) Immunoglobulin Fc receptors. In Mucosal Immunology, 4th Edition. Edited by J.R. Mestecky, W. Strober, M.W. Russell, H. Cheroute, B.N. Lambrecht, and B. Kelsall. Academic Press/Elsevier Ltd. Chapter 20, p409-428.
Mestecky J. and Woof J.M. (2015) Mucosal immunoglobulins. In Mucosal Immunology, 4th edition. Edited by J.R. Mestecky, W. Strober, M.W. Russell, H. Cheroute, B.N. Lambrecht, and B. Kelsall. Academic Press/Elsevier Ltd. Chapter 17, p287-324.
Pinheiro A., Woof J.M., Almeida T., Abrantes J., Alves P.C., Gortázar C. and Esteves P.J. (2014) Leporid immunoglobulin G shows evidence of strong selective pressure on the hinge and CH3 domains. Open Biol. 4(9):140088.
Pinheiro A., Woof J.M., Abi-Rached L., Parham P. and Esteves P.J. (2013) Computational analyses of an evolutionary arms race between mammalian immunity mediated by immunoglobulin A and its subversion by bacterial pathogens. PLoS One 8, e73934.
Woof J.M. (2013) Immunoglobulin A: Molecular Mechanisms of Function and Role in Immune Defence. In Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Antibody Activity. Springer, New York. Edited by F. Nimmerjahn. Chapter 2, p31- 60.
Kaetzel C.S., Mestecky J. and Woof J.M. (2013) Secretory immunoglobulins and their transport. In Principles of Mucosal Immunology. Garland Science, New York and London. Chapter 9, p121-140.
Woof J.M. and Russell M.W. (2011) Structure and function relationships in IgA. Mucosal Immunol. 4, 590-597.
Balu S., Reljic R., Lewis M.J., Pleass R.J., McIntosh R., van Kooten C., van Egmond M., Challacombe S., Woof J.M. and Ivanyi J. (2011) A novel human IgA monoclonal antibody protects against tuberculosis. J. Immunol. 186, 3113-3119.
Lewis M. J., Wagner B., Irvine R., Woof J.M. (2010) IgA in the horse: cloning of equine polymeric Ig receptor and J chain and characterisation of recombinant forms of equine IgA. Mucosal Immunol. 3, 610-621.
2017 Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research. Winner of Engaged Researcher of the Year. University of Dundee (https://youtu.be/fhUzCGMCQA8)
Some examples of my recent public engagement activities are given below:
2017 Gluten-free foods – a half-baked story?: a ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ presentation as part of the Women in Science Festival 2015, 2016, 2017 The immune system in our guts and what goes wrong in Coeliac Disease: a science communication event on coeliac disease delivered as part of Dundee Science Festival Nov 2015 and Nov 2016, a Dundee Science Centre Event, Digest This! in Feb 2017, and as part of Incredible Immunology 2017, Blairgowrie, May 2017
2014, 2015 and 2016 Whodunnit? Royal Society of Edinburgh Start Up Science Masterclass: a Saturday morning masterclass on forensic analysis for 20-40 primary school children
2015 Incredible Immunology: a stand on antibodies and blood group types as part of a public engagement event delivered to school groups and the general public at the Dundee Science Centre and University of Dundee.
2014 Beautiful Biology: organised an exhibition of scientific research images exhibited in Dundee Science Centre as part of the Dundee Science Festival.
2013 Visions of Discovery: organised an exhibition of scientific and medical images in Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee. The images were also exhibited in summer 2014 at the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention in the ExCeL London Exhibition Centre, which attracted ~8000 visitors over 5 days.
2013 The Power of Antibodies: presentation on my research and career path to senior pupils at Dundee High School
2013 Meet the Researcher Showcase: talk on my research career path at an event organised by Medical Research Scotland at the University of Abertay, attended by senior pupils and teachers from local secondary schools.