Oscar Aguilar Alfaro, PhD

Assistant Professor
Microbiology and Immunology
Research Overview: 

The Aguilar Lab studies natural killer (NK) cells and are critical for protecting us from viral infections and cancers. They are innate lymphocytes that use cell surface NK receptors to distinguish between self and non-self (or altered-self). If a target cell has been identified as harmful, NK cells release cytotoxic granules that directly kill the target cell. The NK field has greatly advanced our understanding of these cells however, there remain many outstanding questions. Our lab is working to fill in some of these gaps:

  1. CD16 Fc receptor Biology. In comparing human and mouse NK cell activation through their CD16 Fc receptor, we discovered that these two species behave differently – a difference that is due to the CD3z adaptor molecule. Therefore, we are investigating ways to generate a mouse model with humanized CD16 function to address ways to harness NK cells more effectively through CD16 activation.
  2. Adaptive NK cells. We now appreciate that NK cells have the ability to generate adaptive-like responses, especially to cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, however, the signals that generate these specialized cells are not fully discovered. Therefore, we are investigating the signals that drive formation and maintenance of adaptive-like NK cells.
  3. Recognition and Immune Evasion by cancer and viruses. We are keen on investigating the mechanisms that viruses have evolved to evade NK cell recognition – importantly – investigating how tumor cells may employ similar mechanisms to suppress NK cell activation.

We work with human and mouse models to enhance our understanding of innate immunity as we work towards unlocking their therapeutic potential.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Virology & Microbial Pathogenesis
Research Summary: 
NK cells, NK receptors, and NK ligands in viral immunity and tumor immunity.



The CD16 and CD32b Fc-gamma receptors regulate antibody-mediated responses in mouse natural killer cells.

Journal of leukocyte biology

Aguilar OA, Gonzalez-Hinojosa MDR, Arakawa-Hoyt JS, Millan AJ, Gotthardt D, Nabekura T, Lanier LL

Alveolar macrophage metabolic programming via a C-type lectin receptor protects against lipo-toxicity and cell death.

Nature communications

Scur M, Mahmoud AB, Dey S, Abdalbarri F, Stylianides I, Medina-Luna D, Gamage GS, Woblistin A, Wilson ANM, Zein HS, Stueck A, Wight A, Aguilar OA, Di Cara F, Parsons BD, Rahim MMA, Carlyle JR, Makrigiannis AP

Influence of Self-MHC Class I Recognition on the Dynamics of NK Cell Responses to Cytomegalovirus Infection.

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Potempa M, Aguilar OA, Gonzalez-Hinojosa MDR, Tenvooren I, Marquez DM, Spitzer MH, Lanier LL

The CD3ζ adaptor structure determines functional differences between human and mouse CD16 Fc receptor signaling.

The Journal of experimental medicine

Aguilar OA, Fong LK, Ishiyama K, DeGrado WF, Lanier LL

Mass cytometry reveals single-cell kinetics of cytotoxic lymphocyte evolution in CMV-infected renal transplant patients.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Ishiyama K, Arakawa-Hoyt J, Aguilar OA, Damm I, Towfighi P, Sigdel T, Tamaki S, Babdor J, Spitzer MH, Reed EF, Sarwal MM, Lanier LL, CMV Systems Immunobiology Group