Dr. Pierce is a B cell biologist who has a long standing interest in the molecular mechanisms underlying antigen-driven B cell activation. Recently, Dr. Pierce has expanded the scope of her work to include studies of the acquisition and maintenance of B cell memory in malaria infections.
Dr. Pierce’s research in B cell biology focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the initiation of BCR signaling. She is addressing a fundamental question in immune cell receptor biology, namely, how is the information that antigen has bound to the ectodomain of the receptor transmitted across the membrane to trigger signaling cascades that lead to cell activation? Using cutting-edge, high-resolution, live-cell imaging techniques that capture the earliest events that follow within seconds of the binding of the antigen to the BCR, she is describing novel mechanisms by which the BCR oligomerize following antigen binding that involve conformational changes in the BCR and perturbations in the local lipid microenvironment of the membrane.
Recently, Dr. Pierce has contributed significantly to our understanding of the acquisition and maintenance of human B cell memory in Plasmodium falciparum malaria, describing the specificities of antibodies that confer resistance to disease and the slow step-wise acquisition of these and memory B cells over years in children living in malaria endemic areas of Africa.