Jakob Michaëlsson group - Development, regulation and function of human natural killer cells in healthy and virus infected individuals

The main focus of our research is to investigate the differentiation, function and regulation of human Natural Killer (NK) cells and CD8 T cells during fetal development and in adults.

To achieve the long-term goal of our research, it's important for us to understand how human Natural Killer (NK) cells and CD8 T cells develop and function during different stages of life and during different conditions. The aim with our research is to aid in the development of new therapies in infectious diseases, cancer and transplantation.

We continuously develop new techniques for advanced analysis of immune cells, and strive to be leading in flow cytometry analysis of human NK cells and T cells (currently 29-colour flow cytometry).


NK cells, ILCs, CD8 T cells, development, differentiation, virus infection

Group leader

Jakob Michaelsson

Principal researcher
H7 Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Jakob Michaëlsson was recruited to CIM as a Principal Investigator in 2005, after two years as a postdoc at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of California San Francisco. He received his PhD at the Karolinska Institutet in 2002, with Professor Klas Kärre as a Main Supervisor. Jakob has a longstanding interest in human fetal immune development and the biology of human NK cells and T cells in health and disease.

Group members

Caroline Boulouis

Postdoctoral researcher
H7 Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Caroline Boulouis completed her PhD at Karolinska Institutet in 2021, where she investigated the antimicrobial role of human MAIT cells. During her first postdoc, she studied the immunomodulatory properties of MAIT cells.

She is now focusing her work on NK cells in tissue in the context of lung cancer.

Inga Rødahl

PhD student
H7 Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Inga Rødahl was recruited to the group in March 2020, after completing her master in biotechnology at the University of Queensland, Australia. She is focusing her PhD studies on development of human fetal ILCs.

Team Nicole Marquardt

Nicole Marquardt

Senior research specialist
H7 Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Nicole Marquardt leads a team within the Michaëlsson group, focusing primarily on human NK cells in lung tissue under homeostasis and disease (respiratory viral infections and cancer) as well as in sarcoma tumors.

Nicole has a long-standing expertise in the field of NK cell research, both in blood and tissues. She completed her PhD in Hannover, Germany, in 2011 and got recruited to CIM the same year. She is an Assistant professor at CIM since 2018. 


Demi Brownlie

Postdoctoral researcher
H7 Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Nicole Wild

PhD student
H7 Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Current projects

Development of human innate lymphoid cells in fetal tissues

Little is known about how and where human immune cells develop and mature, and what signals are regulating innate lymphoid cell (ILC) development, including NK cells. We have previously investigated the development and function of fetal NK cells and T cells in the developing fetus, demonstrating that they are phenotypically and functionally distinct from those in adults. Within this project we are currently aiming at elucidating the developmental trajectories of human fetal ILCs from precursor stages to mature cells, and to investigate how fetal ILCs compare to adult ILCs in various human tissues.

We believe that this project will provide important knowledge regarding the development of the human immune system, which could have implications in for example in in utero therapies and for our understanding of immune responses in new born babies.

Tissue-resident NK cells in the human lung and lung tumors

Most of our knowledge regarding human NK cell biology is based on studies of these cells in peripheral blood. Recently it has becoming increasingly clear that NK cells in tissues differ from those in tissues, with distinct phenotypes, function and possibly developmental origins. In this project we focus on the biology of tissue-resident NK cells in the human lung and what role they might play lung tumors. Visit Team Marquardt for more information regarding this project.

Formation of the human memory CD8+ T cell repertoire at the clonal level

CD8+ T cells play an important role in our defense against viral infections and tumors. It is well known that antigen-specific CD8+ T cells expand in viral infections and eventually form a broad repertoire of memory CD8+ T cells that can help in protecting against subsequent infections with the same virus. In this project we collaborate with Dr Jeff Mold and the Frisén lab to investigate how the repertoire of memory CD8+ T cells is shaped by distinct clonal identities over time in response to vaccination against Yellow Fever virus.

Research support

We are grateful for our support from:

  • Karolinska Institutet
  • The Swedish Research Council
  • Swedish Cancer Society
  • Center for Innovative Medicine (CIMED)
  • Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation

Selected publications

Mold JE,  Modolo  L, Hård  J, Zamboni  M, Larsson  AJM, Stenudd  M , Eriksson  CJ, Durif  G, Ståhl  PL, Borgström  E, Picelli  S, Reinius  B, Sandberg  R, Réu  P, Talavera-Lopez  C, Andersson  B, Blom  K, Sandberg  JK, Picard  F, Michaëlsson J* , Frisén J*. “Divergent clonal differentiation trajectories establish CD8+ memory T cell heterogeneity during acute viral infections in humans”. 2021. (* Equal contribution) Cell Reports 35:109174

Brownlie D*, Scharenberg M*, Mold JE, Hård J, Kekäläinen E, Buggert M, Nguyen S, Wilson JN, Al-Ameri M, Ljunggren HG, Marquardt N*, Michaëlsson J*. “Expansions of adaptive-like NK cells with a tissue-resident phenotype in human lung and blood”. 2021. (* Equal contribution) P.N.A.S. 118:e2016580118

Marquardt N, Kekäläinen E, Chen P, Lourda M, Wilson JN, Scharenberg M, Bergman P, Al-Ameri M, Hård J, Mold JE, Ljunggren HG, Michaëlsson J. “Unique transcriptional and protein-expression signature in human lung tissue-resident NK cells” 2019.
Nat Commun. 10:3841.

Scharenberg M, Vangeti S, Kekäläinen E, Bergman P, Al-Ameri M, Johansson N, Sondén K, Falck-Jones S, Färnert A, Ljunggren HG, Michaëlsson J, Smed-Sörensen A, Marquardt N. “Influenza A Virus Infection Induces Hyperresponsiveness in Human Lung Tissue-Resident and Peripheral Blood NK Cells” 2019.
Front Immunol. 10:1116

Hård J, Al Hakim E, Kindblom M, Björklund ÅK, Sennblad B, Demirci I, Paterlini M, Reu P, Borgström E, Ståhl PL, Michaelsson J, Mold JE, Frisén J. 2019. “Conbase: a software for unsupervised discovery of clonal somatic mutations in single cells through read phasing” 2019.
Genome Biol. 20:68

Marquardt N, Kekäläinen E, Chen P, Kvedaraite E, Wilson JN, Ivarsson MA, Mjösberg J, Berglin L, Säfholm J, Manson ML, Adner M, Al-Ameri M, Bergman P, Orre AC, Svensson M, Dahlén B, Dahlén SE, Ljunggren HG, Michaëlsson J. ”Human lung natural killer cells are predominantly comprised of highly differentiated hypofunctional CD69-CD56dim cells” 2017
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 139:1321-1330

Reinius B, Mold JE, Ramsköld D, Deng Q, Johnsson P, Michaëlsson J, Frisén J, Sandberg R. “Analysis of allelic expression patterns in clonal somatic cells by single-cell RNA-seq” 2016.
Nat Genet. 48:1430-1435

Marquardt N, Ivarsson MA, Sundström E, Åkesson E, Martini E, Eidsmo L, Mjösberg J, Friberg D, Kublickas M, Ek S, Tegerstedt G, Seiger Å, Westgren M, Michaëlsson J. “Fetal CD103+ IL-17-Producing Group 3 Innate Lymphoid Cells Represent the Dominant Lymphocyte Subset in Human Amniotic Fluid” 2016.
J Immunol. 197:3069-3075

Björkström NK, Ljunggren HG, Michaëlsson J. “Emerging insights into natural killer cells in human peripheral tissues” 2016.
Nat Rev Immunol. 16:310-20

Renoux VM, Zriwil A, Peitzsch C, Michaëlsson J, Friberg D, Soneji S, Sitnicka E. “Identification of a Human Natural Killer Cell Lineage-Restricted Progenitor in Fetal and Adult Tissues” 2015.
Immunity 43:394-407

Marquardt N, Ivarsson MA, Blom K, Gonzalez VD, Braun M, Falconer K, Gustafsson R, Fogdell-Hahn A, Sandberg JK, Michaëlsson J. “The Human NK Cell Response to Yellow Fever Virus 17D Is Primarily Governed by NK Cell Differentiation Independently of NK Cell Education” 2015. 
J Immunol. 195:3262-72

Marquardt N, Béziat V, Nyström S, Hengst J, Ivarsson MA, Kekäläinen E, Johansson H, Mjösberg J, Westgren M, Lankisch TO, Wedemeyer H, Ellis EC, Ljunggren HG, Michaëlsson J, Björkström NK. “Cutting edge: identification and characterization of human intrahepatic CD49a+ NK cells” 2015.
J Immunol. 194:2467-71

Ivarsson MA, Loh L, Marquardt N, Kekäläinen E, Berglin L, Björkström NK, Westgren M, Nixon DF, Michaëlsson J. “Differentiation and functional regulation of human fetal NK cells” 2013.
J Clin Invest. 123:3889-901

Blom K, Braun M, Ivarsson MA, Gonzalez VD, Falconer K, Moll M, Ljunggren HG, Michaëlsson J, Sandberg JK. “Temporal dynamics of the primary human T cell response to yellow fever virus 17D as it matures from an effector- to a memory-type response” 2013.  
J Immunol. 190:2150-8.

Fauriat C, Ivarsson MA, Ljunggren HG, Malmberg KJ, Michaëlsson J. ”Education of human natural killer cells by activating killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors” 2010.
Blood 115:1166-74

Mold JE, Venkatasubrahmanyam S, Burt TD, Michaëlsson J, Rivera JM, Galkina SA, Weinberg K, Stoddart CA, McCune JM. “Fetal and adult hematopoietic stem cells give rise to distinct T cell lineages in humans” 2010.
Science. 330:1695-9

Mold JE, Michaëlsson J, Burt TD, Muench MO, Beckerman KP, Busch MP, Lee TH, Nixon DF, McCune JM. “Maternal alloantigens promote the development of tolerogenic fetal regulatory T cells in utero” 2008.
Science. 322:1562-5

Michaëlsson J, Mold JE, McCune JM, Nixon DF. “Regulation of T cell responses in the developing human fetus” 2006.
J Immunol. 176:5741-8.

Available preprints

Jeff E. Mold, Laurent Modolo, Joanna Hård, Margherita Zamboni, Anton J.M. Larsson, Carl-Johan Eriksson, Patrik L. Ståhl, Erik Borgström, Simone Picelli, Björn Reinius, Rickard Sandberg, Pedro Réu, Carlos Talavera-Lopez, Björn Andersson, Kim Blom, Johan K. Sandberg, Franck Picard, Jakob Michaëlsson, Jonas Frisén. “Clonally distinct differentiation trajectories shape CD8+ memory T cell heterogeneity after acute viral infections in humans” 2019.
bioRxiv 832899

Complete list of publications

For a complete list of publications from Jakob Michaëlsson visit PubMed and Google scholar