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Fikri Avci
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UGA Center for Molecular Medicine

Understanding mechanisms involved in activation of adaptive immune system by carbohydrate antigens, design and synthesis of new-generation vaccines and therapeutics based on the mechanisms discovered.

Telephone: 706-542-3831
Fax: 706-542-4412

Short Biography
Research Interests
Lab-personal web site

Short Biography:
Dr. Avci received his B.S. in Chemistry in 2001 from Fatih University and his Ph.D. in 2005 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to his Assistant Professor position at the University of Georgia, Dr. Avci was a research fellow (2006-2011) and a junior faculty member (2011-2013) in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School.

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Research Interests:
Glycoconjugate vaccines provide enormous health benefits against bacterial pathogens, yet the conjugation of polysaccharides to proteins has often been a "black art," with poorly defined chemistry resulting in inadequately characterized conjugates. Especially problematic has been the lack of appreciation of the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which the immune system processes these complex antigens. Our article in Nature Medicine (Nat Med, 2011: 17, 1602) reports the most comprehensive study to date on the immune mechanisms involved in glycoconjugate vaccine activation of adaptive immune machinery. With this discovery, we demonstrated for the first time that carbohydrates that were previously considered to be “T cell independent” antigens can indeed be specifically recognized by T cells. Our conclusions are a major departure from the traditional understanding that the T cells can only recognize peptides presented by the MHC proteins. Second, using the knowledge gained from our mechanistic studies, we designed and synthesized a model new-generation glycoconjugate vaccine that was enriched for its carbohydrate T cell epitopes compared to a glycoconjugate vaccine made by traditional conjugation methods. Our model vaccine is 50–100 times more immunogenic than its traditional counterpart. Our research maps out a conceptual framework on which to base future investigations of vaccine immunogenicity and vaccine design based on carbohydrate antigens found not only in bacterial pathogens but also in other pathogens (e.g., parasites, viruses) and cancer cells.

Our research program is directed at: delineating immune mechanisms involved in carbohydrate-mediated adaptive immune response, and designing, synthesizing and testing vaccine targets against model pathogens and cancers. Our research approach involves: (1) identification of the molecular interactions involved in uptake, processing and presentation of carbohydrate antigens by the antigen presenting cells (APCs), (2) isolation and characterization of T cells and their epitopes generated from model carbohydrate antigens, (3) understanding the basis for cellular and humoral immune responses induced by carbohydrate presentation and recognition that enable eradication of disease causing agents, (4) design and synthesis of new-generation therapeutic and/ or prophylactic agents based on the knowledge gained from mechanisms discovered. Our research tools include and are not limited to: isolation, synthesis, characterization of carbohydrate antigens and glycoconjugates, immune cell isolation, characterization and culturing, biochemical analyses of molecular interactions, ex vivo and in vitro functional assays and immunizations and in vivo disease models.

We are an interdisciplinary research group at the interface of carbohydrate research and immunology. Our objective is to explore treatment of and protection from infectious diseases and cancer by understanding key molecular and cellular interactions between the components of the immune system and carbohydrate antigens associated with microbes or cancers.


Journal Articles

Dingding An, Sungwhan F. Oh, Torsten Olszak, Joana F. Neves, Fikri Y. Avci, Deniz Erturk-Hasdemir, Xi Lu, Sebastian Zeissig, Richard S. Blumberg, Dennis L. Kasper. Sphingolipids from a Symbiotic Microbe Regulate Homeostasis of Host Intestinal Natural Killer T Cells. Cell 156: 123-133 (2014).

Fikri Y. Avci. Novel Strategies for Development of Next-Generation Glycoconjugate Vaccines. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry 13: 2535-2540 (2013).

Fikri Y. Avci, Xiangming Li, Moriya Tsuji, Dennis L. Kasper. Carbohydrates and T cells: A Sweet Twosome. Seminars in Immunology 25: 146-151 (2013).

Vincent L. Chen, Fikri Y. Avci, Dennis L. Kasper. A Maternal Vaccine against Group B Streptococcus: Past, Present and Future. Vaccine 4: D13-19 (2013).

Fikri Y. Avci, Xiangming Li, Moriya Tsuji, Dennis L. Kasper. Isolation of carbohydrate-specific CD4+ T cell clones from mice after stimulation by two model glycoconjugate vaccines. Nature Protocols 7: 2180-2192 (2012).

Fikri Y. Avci, Xiangming Li, Moriya Tsuji, Dennis L. Kasper. A mechanism for glycoconjugate vaccine activation of the adaptive immune system and its implications for vaccine design. Nature Medicine 17: 1602-1609 (2011).

Fikri Y. Avci, Dennis L. Kasper. How bacterial carbohydrates influence the adaptive immune system. Annual Review of Immunology 28: 107-130 (2010).

Alexis Choi, Leyla Slamti, Fikri Y. Avci, Gerald B. Pier, Tomás Maira-Litrán. The pgaABCD locus of Acinetobacter baumannii encodes the production of poly-β-1-6-N-acetyl glucosamine PNAG that is critical for biofilm formation. Journal of Bacteriology 191: 5953-5963 (2009).

Jinyou Duan, Fikri Y. Avci, Dennis L. Kasper. Microbial carbohydrate depolymerization by antigen-presenting cells: Deamination prior to presentation by the MHCII pathway. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 105: 5183-5188 (2008).

Breca Tracy, Fikri Y. Avci, Paul L. DeAngelis, Robert J. Linhardt. Acceptor specificity of the Pasteurella hyaluronan and chondroitin synthases and production of chimeric glycosaminoglycans. Journal of Biological Chemistry 282: 337-344 (2007).

Tatiana N. Laremore, Saravanababu Murugesan, Tae-joon Park, Fikri Y. Avci, Dmitri V. Zagorevski, Robert J. Linhardt. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ ionization mass spectrometric analysis of uncomplexed highly sulfated oligosaccharides using ionic liquid matrices. Analytical Chemistry 78: 1774-1779 (2006).

Eva Muñoz, Ding Xu, Fikri Y. Avci, Melissa Kemp, Jian Liu and Robert J. Linhardt. Enzymatic synthesis of heparin related polysaccharides on sensor chips: Rapid screening of heparin–protein interactions. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 339: 597-602 (2006).

Jinghua Chen, Fikri Y. Avci, Eva M. Munoz, Miao Chen, L. M. McDowell, Lars C. Pedersen, Robert J Linhardt, Jian Liu. Enzymatically Redesigning the Biologically Active Heparan Sulfate. Journal of Biological Chemistry 280: 42817-42825 (2005).

Kano Hirano, Shinobu Sakai, Tsutomu Ishikawa, Fikri Y. Avci, Robert J. Linhardt, Toshihiko Toida. Preparation of hyaluronan O-methylester and its enzymatic degradation. Carbohydrate Research 340: 2297-2304 (2005).

Nathalie A. Karst, Tasneem F. Islam, Fikri Y. Avci, Robert J. Linhardt. Trifluoroethylsulfonate protected monosaccharides in glycosylation reactions. Tetrahedron Letters 45: 6433-6437 (2004).

Fikri Y. Avci, Nathalie A. Karst, Robert J. Linhardt. Synthetic oligosaccharides as heparin-mimetics displaying anticoagulant properties. Current Pharmaceutical Design 9: 2323-2335 (2003).

Fikri Y. Avci, Toshihiko Toida, Robert J. Linhardt. Chondroitin O-methyl Ester: an unusual substrate for chondroitin AC lyase. Carbohydrate Research 338: 2101-2104 (2003).

Book Chapters

Fikri Y. Avci, Paul DeAngelis, Jian Liu, Robert J. Linhardt. “Chemoenzymatic sythesis of glycosaminoglycans: Improving on nature”, book entitled “Frontiers in Carbohydrate Chemistry” in ACS Symposium Series, by Oxford University Press 960, 253-284 (2007).

Robert J. Linhardt, Fikri Y. Avci, Toshiko Toida, Yeong Shik Kim, Miroslaw Cygler “CS Lyases: Structure, activity and applications in analysis and the treatment of diseases”, book entitled Chondroitin Sulfate Structure, Role and Pharmacological Activity in the series “Advanced Pharmacology” by ELSEVIER 53, 187-215 (2006).

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Publications: Author's Last Name: Avci

Journal Articles
Book Chapters are listed at the bottom of this page.

Book Chapters

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