Dr Marika Kullberg

Senior lecturer in Immunology


Mucosal Immunology

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), comprising Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is a significant health concern worldwide. In the United Kingdom alone there are approximately 180,000 people affected and ~12,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The cause of IBD is not known; however, the intestinal bacterial flora and an inappropriate immune response to these bacteria are believed to contribute to the onset of disease.

Fluorescence microscopy of Helicobacter hepaticus.

Fluorescence microscopy of Helicobacter hepaticus

Helicobacter hepaticus within epithelial crypts.

hepaticushyst and crypts

The Kullberg lab is interested in the immunology of IBD and the mechanisms by which immune responses are initiated and regulated in the intestinal tract. We use an experimental model of IBD involving infection with the bacterium Helicobacter hepaticus. Our research focuses on the pathogenic as well as the disease-protective arm of the immune response to H. hepaticus with special emphasis on CD4+ T cells. In addition, we are developing a computational model and simulation approach to help increase our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in intestinal inflammation.

Model of CD4+ T-cell phenotype conversion during Helicobacter hepaticus-induced intestinal inflammation.


Microaerophilic incubator for culture of Helicobacter hepaticus.




Research Group

Teaching and Scholarship

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‌My goal as a teacher is to instill understanding, underpinned by knowledge. I believe that students should be equipped with sufficient knowledge to understand principles, which can be used to extrapolate and develop ideas. I want students to question evidence and develop their critical thinking. I like to see students having ideas that others have had previously, as this is the way to original and creative thinking.

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‌As a molecular microbiologist, my lecture material is the amazing world of microbes. My teaching is inspired by my research topics, which are centred on the soil bacteria, Streptomyces. These remarkable bacteria are the most prolific producers of secondary metabolites, which include antibiotics, anticancer agents, immune-suppressants and other bioactive agents used in the pharmaceutical industry. How are these metabolites made? What tools do we need to make/discover new antibiotics that are urgently needed?

The genetic engineer uses tools to cut and paste DNA and in our lab we are using phage encoded recombinases, to do just this with antibiotic pathways. However a good worker knows how his/her tools work, so I am interested in how some of these recombinases work. Some of these proteins are beautiful molecular machines. It is my aim to try to convey state of the art knowledge and understanding in both DNA recombinases and Streptomyces genetics and biochemistry.

tutorials icon
I touch on a broad range of topics in tutorials, but still in the fields of molecular biology and microbiology.  Tutorials are a forum for students to learn and practice how to question, have ideas and to discuss topical scientific issues.  Quite often the subject of the next tutorial is inspired by something in the press. I have no prescribed pattern of topics for each tutorial. Students are sometimes given a free hand at picking a topic for the tutorial, encouraged to go out and follow their interests. 

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Students taking a project in my lab will inevitably be working on something aligned with our research. The isolation of new bacteriophages is usually an option as at the heart of my research is the interaction between phages and their bacterial hosts. Almost all of our research projects have come from asking questions about phage-host interactions.  The sort of techniques the student will learn include microbiology, some DNA manipulation and some bioinformatics. 


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Marika Kullberg
Senior lecturer in immunology



Marika Kullberg is a senior lecturer in immunology at the Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII) and HYMS. She obtained her BSc in Chemistry and Microbiology from Stockholm University (Sweden), and then went on to do a PhD in Immunology at Stockholm University and at the National Institutes of Health (NIH, USA) where she spent 2.5 years in the laboratory of Dr Jay Berzofsky. After a post-doc year at Stockholm University, Marika returned to the NIH for a post-doc in Dr Alan Sher's laboratory at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases where she spent 8 years as a Visiting Fellow and a Research Fellow, investigating CD4 T-cell responses during bacterial-induced intestinal inflammation. In 2005, Marika joined the University of York and HYMS, and established her own research group. She also currently teaches at both undergraduate and graduate level at the Department of Biology and HYMS, and is the departmental coordinator for the intercalated BSc program.  


  • Stockholm University (Sweden)
    BSc in Chemistry and Microbiology (1988)
  • Stockholm University (Sweden) and NCI, National Institutes of Health (USA)
    PhD in Immunology (1995)
  • Stockholm University (Sweden)
    Postdoctoral Researcher (1996)
  • NIAID, National Institutes of Health (USA)
    Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow (1997-2002)
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2002-2005)
  • Centre for Immunology and Infection, University of York
    Lecturer in immunology (2005 - 2017)
    Senior lecturer in immunology (2017 - )



  • Cellular and mucosal immunology
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Helicobacter hepaticus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • CD4 T cells
  • Th17 cells
  • T-regulatory cells


The Kullberg lab is interested in the immunology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and the mechanisms by which immune responses are initiated and regulated in the intestinal tract. It is now well established that the intestinal bacterial flora plays an essential role in IBD pathogenesis and that CD4 T lymphocytes are important in both the induction and regulation of the disease.

We are using a model of intestinal inflammation involving infection with Helicobacter hepaticus. Our research focuses on the pathogenic as well as the disease-protective arm of the immune response to Helicobacter hepaticus with special emphasis on CD4 T-cell responses. The overall aim of our studies is to define the mechanisms by which bacterial antigen/dendritic cell/CD4 T-cell interactions trigger colitis in disease-susceptible individuals and suppress its induction in disease-resistant hosts. Research areas include innate and adaptive immune responses to Helicobacter hepaticus, mechanisms of bacterial-induced host pathology, and mechanisms of disease-protective CD4 T-regulatory cell development.  In collaboration with colleagues at the University of York, we are also using computational approaches to develop an in silico model of intestinal inflammation (see York Computational Immunology Lab).

Research group(s)

copyright: johnhoulihan.com

Contact details

Dr Marika Kullberg
Senior lecturer in Immunology
Centre for Immunology and Infection
Department of Biology and Hull York Medical School
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328850
Fax: 01904 328844