Honors & Awards

  • Invited Young Investigator Plenary Lecturer, 4th North American Comparative Immunology Workshop (2013)
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health (2011, 2012)
  • Melville A. Hare Award for Distinction in Research, University of Rochester Medical Center (2010)
  • The Vincent du Vigneaud Commencement Award for Meritorious Research, University of Rochester Medical Center (2010)
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health (2006-2009)

Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Rochester (2010)
  • Master of Science, University of Rochester (2006)
  • Bachelor of Science, Florida International University (2003)

Stanford Advisors


Journal Articles

  • Unusual evolutionary conservation and further species-specific adaptations of a large family of nonclassical MHC class Ib genes across different degrees of genome ploidy in the amphibian subfamily Xenopodinae IMMUNOGENETICS Edholm, E., Goyos, A., Taran, J., Andino, F. D., Ohta, Y., Robert, J. 2014; 66 (6): 411-426


    Nonclassical MHC class Ib (class Ib) genes are a family of highly diverse and rapidly evolving genes wherein gene numbers, organization, and expression markedly differ even among closely related species rendering class Ib phylogeny difficult to establish. Whereas among mammals there are few unambiguous class Ib gene orthologs, different amphibian species belonging to the anuran subfamily Xenopodinae exhibit an unusually high degree of conservation among multiple class Ib gene lineages. Comparative genomic analysis of class Ib gene loci of two divergent (~65 million years) Xenopodinae subfamily members Xenopus laevis (allotetraploid) and Xenopus tropicalis (diploid) shows that both species possess a large cluster of class Ib genes denoted as Xenopus/Silurana nonclassical (XNC/SNC). Our study reveals two distinct phylogenetic patterns among these genes: some gene lineages display a high degree of flexibility, as demonstrated by species-specific expansion and contractions, whereas other class Ib gene lineages have been maintained as monogenic subfamilies with very few changes in their nucleotide sequence across divergent species. In this second category, we further investigated the XNC/SNC10 gene lineage that in X. laevis is required for the development of a distinct semi-invariant T cell population. We report compelling evidence of the remarkable high degree of conservation of this gene lineage that is present in all 12 species of the Xenopodinae examined, including species with different degrees of ploidy ranging from 2, 4, 8 to 12 N. This suggests that the critical role of XNC10 during early T cell development is conserved in amphibians.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00251-014-0774-5

    View details for Web of Science ID 000336270000006

    View details for PubMedID 24771209

  • Phylogenetic and developmental study of CD4, CD8 alpha and beta T cell co-receptor homologs in two amphibian species, Xenopus tropicalis and Xenopus laevis DEVELOPMENTAL AND COMPARATIVE IMMUNOLOGY Chida, A. S., Goyos, A., Robert, J. 2011; 35 (3): 366-377


    CD4 and CD8 co-receptors play critical roles in T cell development and activation by interacting both with T cell receptors and MHC molecules. Although homologs of these genes have been identified in many jawed vertebrates, there are still unresolved gaps concerning their evolution and specialization in MHC interaction and T cell function. Using experimental and computational procedures we identified CD4, CD8? and CD8? gene homologs both in Xenopus tropicalis, whose full genome has been sequenced, and its sister species Xenopus laevis. Multiple alignments of deduced amino acid sequences reveal a poor conservation of the residues involved in binding of CD4 to MHC class II, and CD8? to class I in non-mammalian species, presumably related to the co-evolutionary pressure of MHC I and II genes. Phylogenetic study suggests that Xenopodinae co-receptor genes are more closely related to their homologs in other tetrapods than those of bony fish. Furthermore, the developmental and cell-specific expression patterns of these genes in X. laevis are very similar to that of mammals. X. laevis CD4 is mainly expressed by peripheral non-CD8 T cells and detected in the thymus as early as four days post-fertilization (dpf) at the onset of thymic organogenesis. CD8? expression is specific to adult surface CD8(+) T cells and thymocytes, and is first detected in the thymus at 5 dpf in parallel with productive TCR? transrcipts, whereas productive TCR? and ? rearrangements are not detected before 7-9 dpf.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.dci.2010.11.005

    View details for Web of Science ID 000289871800017

    View details for PubMedID 21075137

  • Remarkable Conservation of Distinct Nonclassical MHC Class I Lineages in Divergent Amphibian Species JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Goyos, A., Sowa, J., Ohta, Y., Robert, J. 2011; 186 (1): 372-381


    Nonclassical MHC class Ib (class Ib) genes are heterogeneous genes encoding molecules that are structurally similar to classical MHC class Ia molecules but with limited tissue distribution and polymorphism. Mammalian class Ib genes have diverse and often uncharacterized functions, and because of their rapid rate of evolution, class Ib phylogeny is difficult to establish. We have conducted an extensive genomic, molecular, and phylogenetic characterization of class Ib genes in two Xenopodinae amphibian species of different genera that diverged from a common ancestor as long ago as primates and rodents (?65 million years). In contrast with the unsteadiness of mammalian class Ib genes, our results reveal an unusual degree of conservation of most Xenopodinae class Ib gene lineages, including a novel monogenic lineage represented by the divergent Xenopus laevis XNC10 gene and its unequivocal Silurana (Xenopus) tropicalis orthologue, SNC10. The preferential expression of this gene lineage by thymocytes themselves from the onset of thymic organogenesis is consistent with a specialized role of class Ib in early T cell development and suggests such a function is conserved in all tetrapods.

    View details for DOI 10.4049/jimmunol.1001467

    View details for Web of Science ID 000285688700044

    View details for PubMedID 21115732

  • Xenopus, a unique comparative model to explore the role of certain heat shock proteins and non-classical MHC class Ib gene products in immune surveillance IMMUNOLOGIC RESEARCH Robert, J., Goyos, A., Nedelkovska, H. 2009; 45 (2-3): 114-122


    The heat shock proteins (HSPs) gp96 and hsp70 can elicit potent anti-tumor responses and as such have significant clinical potential. Besides cytotoxic CD8 T cell (CTLs) effectors, evidence suggests that natural killer (NK) cells and other less well-characterized cell types also play a critical role in HSP-mediated anti-tumor responses. Owing to their high degree of phylogenetic conservation, we have proposed that HSPs are ancestral agents of immune surveillance; and postulated that their immunological properties, if important, should have been conserved during evolution. We are investigating this issue using a unique non-mammalian comparative tumor-immunity model in the frog Xenopus, which allows us to focus on the relationship between HSPs, classical MHC class Ia, and non-classical MHC class Ib molecules. In addition to a transplantable lymphoid tumor in genetically defined cloned Xenopus, we are generating transgenic frogs with inducible or knocked-down (RNAi) gene expression.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s12026-009-8094-9

    View details for Web of Science ID 000272120200003

    View details for PubMedID 19189057

  • Novel nonclassical MHC class Ib genes associated with CD8 T cell development and thymic tumors MOLECULAR IMMUNOLOGY Goyos, A., Ohta, Y., Guselnikov, S., Robert, J. 2009; 46 (8-9): 1775-1786


    In jawed vertebrates, the heterogeneous nonclassical MHC class Ib (class Ib) gene family encodes molecules structurally similar to classical MHC class Ia (class Ia) but with more limited tissue distribution and lower polymorphism. In mammals, class Ib gene products are involved in stress responses, malignancy and differentiation of intrathymic CD8 T cells. The frog Xenopus laevis possesses at least 20 class Ib genes (XNCs), and 9 subfamilies have been defined so far. We have characterized two novel subfamilies, XNC10 and XNC11. XNC10 is phylogenetically and structurally distinct from both class Ia and other XNC genes. Besides thymic lymphoid tumors, XNC10 is preferentially expressed by circulating T cells and thymocytes of the CD8 lineage both in adult and in larvae from the onset of thymus organogenesis. XNC11 is expressed only by thymocytes and upregulated by several thymic lymphoid tumors. These data provide the first evidence of the expression of any class Ib genes in Xenopus larvae, and suggests evolutionary relationships between certain class Ib genes, malignancy and CD8 T cell ontogeny.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molimm.2009.01.016

    View details for Web of Science ID 000266190000025

    View details for PubMedID 19237199

  • Tumorigenesis and anti-tumor immune responses in Xenopus FRONTIERS IN BIOSCIENCE-LANDMARK Goyos, A., Robert, J. 2009; 14: 167-176


    Despite intense study, the role of the immune system in detecting (immunosurveillance), controlling and remodeling (immunoediting) neoplasia remains elusive. We present here a comparative view of the complex interactions between neoplasia and the host immune system. We provide evidence, in the amphibian Xenopus laevis, consistent with an evolutionarily conserved and crucial role of the immune system in controlling neoplasia, which involves a striking variety of anti-tumoral immune effectors including conventional CTLs, classical MHC class Ia unrestricted CTLs (CCU-CTLs) that interact with nonclassical MHC class Ib molecules, CD8 NKT-like cells and NK cells. We also review the tumors found in X. laevis with an emphasis on thymic lymphoid tumors and a rare ovarian dysgerminoma. Finally, we consider the use of X. laevis for in vivo study of tumorigenesis. Given our current knowledge, the experimental systems already established in X. laevis, and the rapid accumulation of genetic resources for the sister species Silurana (Xenopus) tropicalis, it is our conviction that these species provide an ideal alternative to the murine system for studying tumorigenesis and tumor immunity.

    View details for DOI 10.2741/3238

    View details for Web of Science ID 000262352400011

    View details for PubMedID 19273061

  • Involvement of nonclassical MHC class Ib molecules in heat shock protein-mediated anti-tumor responses EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Goyos, A., Guselnikov, S., Chida, A. S., Sniderhan, L. E., Maggirwar, S. B., Nedelkovska, H., Robert, J. 2007; 37 (6): 1494-1501


    Nonclassical MHC class Ib (class Ib) genes are found in all jawed vertebrates, and their products are hypothesized to be indicators of intracellular stress and malignancy. They may be involved in immune recognition of classical MHC class Ia (class Ia)-low or -negative tumor cells through their interaction with T cell receptors and/or non-T cell inhibitory or triggering receptors expressed by NK cells and T cells. In the frog Xenopus, the molecular chaperone gp96 mediates a potent immune response involving antigen-specific classical class Ia-unrestricted CD8+ CTL (CCU-CTL) against a transplantable thymic tumor (15/0) that does not express class Ia molecules. We hypothesized that Xenopus nonclassical class Ib gene products (XNC) are involved in gp96-mediated CCU-CTL anti-tumor responses. To investigate the involvement of class Ib gene products in Xenopus anti-tumor responses, we generated, for the first time in ectothermic vertebrates, stable tumor transfectants expressing short hairpin RNA (shRNA) to silence either XNC directly or beta2m to prevent class Ib surface expression. Both types of 15/0 transfectants are more resistant to CCU-CTL killing, more tumorigenic and more susceptible to NK-like cell killing. This study provides in vitro and in vivo evidence of the evolutionary conservation of class Ib involvement in anti-tumor CD8+ T cell responses.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/eji.200636570

    View details for Web of Science ID 000247279600010

    View details for PubMedID 17492621

  • CD91 up-regulates upon immune stimulation in Xenopus adult but not larval peritoneal leukocytes IMMUNOGENETICS Marr, S., Goyos, A., Gantress, J., Maniero, G. D., Robert, J. 2005; 56 (10): 735-742


    CD91, the endocytic receptor for alpha2-macroglobulin (alpha2M), mediates the internalization of certain heat shock proteins (hsps) and the cross-presentation of peptides they chaperone by antigen-presenting cells. The phylogenetic conservation of the immunologically active CD91 ligands, alpha2M and hsps, is consistent with the idea of an ancestral system of immune surveillance. We have further explored this hypothesis by taking advantage of the frog Xenopus, and asked how conserved is CD91 and whether the expression of CD91 is differentially modulated during immune responses of class I-positive adult and naturally class I-negative larvae. We have identified a Xenopus CD91 gene homologue that displays high sequence identity (>65%) with other CD91 homologues and contains an additional distinctive cytoplasmic NPXY motif. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that CD91 homologues branch as a monophyletic group distinct from other LDLRs; this suggests an origin of CD91 contemporary with that of metazoans. A 14-kb transcript is detected by Northern blotting in most adult and larval tissues, including lymphoid tissues. RT-PCR study reveals that CD91 is expressed in most cell types, including adult macrophages, B and T cells as well as in splenocytes and thymocytes from naturally MHC class I negative larvae. CD91 is markedly up-regulated in vivo by adult peritoneal leukocytes following bacterial and viral stimulation; it is constitutively expressed on class I-negative larval peritoneal leukocytes at high levels and cannot be further upregulated by such stimulation. These data are in agreement with a conserved role of CD91 in immunity.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00251-004-0736-4

    View details for Web of Science ID 000226465800006

    View details for PubMedID 15592667

  • Anti-tumor MHC class Ia-unrestricted CD8 T cell cytotoxicity elicited by the heat shock protein gp96 EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY Goyos, A., Cohen, N., Gantress, J., Robert, J. 2004; 34 (9): 2449-2458


    In Xenopus as in mammals, gp96 stimulates MHC-restricted cellular immunity against chaperoned minor histocompatibility (H) antigens (Ag). In adult Xenopus, gp96 also elicits peptide-specific effectors against MHC class Ia-negative 15/0 tumors. To determine whether gp96 can generate functionally heterogeneous CD8+ effectors (CTL that kill MHC class Ia+ minor H-Ag-disparate lymphoblasts and MHC class Ia- tumor targets), LG-6 isogenetic frogs were immunized with gp96 purified either from MHC-identical but minor H-Ag-disparate LG-15 normal tissues or from the MHC class Ia-negative 15/0 tumor line (derived from LG-15 frogs). LG-15 normal liver-derived gp96 did not induce detectable CD8+ in vitro killing against 15/0 tumor cells. However, 15/0-derived gp96 did induce killing against both MHC class Ia+ LG-15 lymphoblasts and the MHC class Ia- 15/0 tumor, but not against another MHC class Ia- tumor (B3B7) or against LG-6 lymphoblasts. Tumor killing was better when 15/0 rather than normal LG-15 irradiated stimulators were used, but in vitro stimulation without prior in vivo immunization was ineffective. These data suggest that (1) 15/0-derived gp96 chaperones minor H-Ag shared with normal LG-15 lymphocytes and elicits MHC-restricted CTL, and (2) 15/0-derived gp96, but not normal liver-derived gp96, generates CD8+ effectors that kill 15/0 tumor cells in the absence of MHC class Ia expression.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/eji.200425105

    View details for Web of Science ID 000223810400011

    View details for PubMedID 15307177

  • Evolution of the inmunomodulatory role of the heat shock protein gp96 CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY Robert, J., Cohen, N., Maniero, G. D., Goyos, A., Morales, H., Gantress, J. 2003; 49 (2): 263-275


    In mammals, certain heat shock proteins (hsps) participate in specialized responses to stressors associated with pathogens or tumors, and as such, act as agents of immune surveillance interacting with both innate and adaptive immunity. We are investigating the conservation of this role throughout the class of vertebrates. We have shown that in Xenopus as in mammals, gp96, the major resident of the endoplasmic reticulum, generates MHC-restricted thymus-dependent immunity in vivo and CR in vitro against minor histocompatibility (H) antigens. By as yet unclear mechanisms that may involve classical MHC-unrestricted cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, gp96 also elicits peptide-specific responses against MHC-class I-negative tumors in adult frogs that may involve cytotoxic NK, MHC-unrestricted CD8+ T and NK/T cells. In naturally MHC class I-deficient but immunocompetent Xenopus larvae, gp96 also generates an innate type of anti-tumor response that is independent of chaperoned peptides. Finally, in a subset of Xenopus sIgM+ B cells, a substantial fraction of gp96 is directed to the cell surface by an active process that is upregulated by bacterial stimulation. This may allow gp96 to access the extracellular compartment without necrosis. Given the dual abilities of gp96 to chaperone antigenic peptides and to modulate innate immune responses, we propose that stimulated B cells that are up-regulating surface gp96 can directly interact with antigen presenting cells (APC) and/or T helper (Th) cells to trigger or amplify immune responses.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000184109700013

    View details for PubMedID 12887107

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