Dr Kai Toellner

Dr Kai-Michael Toellner’s research is focused on the basic immunobiology of B cell selection, maturation, and differentiation, as well as in CD4 T cell differentiation with the aim of enhancing cancer vaccination strategies.

Reader in Adaptive Immunity, School of Immunity and Infection, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham. 

Email: k.m.toellner@bham.ac.uk

UoB profile

Background and Research focus

Dr Kai-Michael Toellner is a Reader in Adaptive Immunity in the School of Immunity and Infection, at the University of Birmingham. He has a longstanding interest in the basic immunobiology of B cell selection, maturation, and differentiation, as well as in CD4 T-cell differentiation. Kai and his team are studying how antigen, antibodies, T cells and other accessory cells in germinal centre interact with B cells and provide stimulation or barriers that lead to selection of higher affinity B-cells. Their main focus of this work is to improve the action of cancer vaccination strategies, as well as to understand the effects of ageing on the antibody affinity maturation. Key to this research is a close collaboration with Professor Roy Bicknell, in which Kai applies his expertise in basic B cell biology in preclinical mouse model studies designed to improve cancer vaccination approaches to target the tumour endothelium. These include targeting novel tumour endothelial antigens identified in the Bicknell laboratory.


Affinity maturation;  class switching; plasma cell differentiation; cancer vaccination strategies; affinity maturation and ageing.

Other activities

He has published over 60 research papers in peer reviewed scientific journals, and received major grants from the European Union, Pfizer, and the MRC/BBSRC. In addition to his research interests, Kai has made substantial contributions to teaching at the University of Birmingham. In particular, he delivers lectures on a wide range of courses which include BMedSci, MBChB, Mres in Biomedical Research, MPharm pharmacy and MSc in Immunology and Immunotherapy.   


Zhuang, X., F. Ahmed, Y. Zhang, H.J. Ferguson, J.C. Steele, N.M. Steven, Z. Nagy, V.L. Heath, K.-M. Toellner, and R. Bicknell. Robo4 vaccines induce antibodies that retard tumor growth Angiogenesis 2015. 18: 83-95.

Caganova, M., C. Carrisi, F. Mainoldi, L. George, F. Alberghini, M. Ponzoni, T. Nojima, C. Doglioni, D. Kitamura, K.-M. Toellner, I. Su, S. Casola. Regulation of the germinal center B-cell program by the histone H3 lysine-27 methyltransferase Ezh2  Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2013, 201, 123, 5009-5022.

Stamm, C., J. Barthelmann, N. Kunz, K.-M. Toellner, J. Westermann, K. Kalies. Dose-dependent Induction of Murine Th1/Th2 Responses to Sheep Red Blood Cells Occurs in Two Steps: Antigen Presentation during Second Encounter Is Decisive PLOS One, 2013, Jun 28;8(6):e67746.

Zhang Y., M. Meyer-Hermann, L. George, M. T. Figge, M. Khan, M. Goodall, S. P. Young, A. Reynolds, F. Falciani, A. Waisman, C. A. Notley, M. R. Ehrenstein, M. Kosco-Vilbois, K.-M. Toellner. Germinal centre B cells govern their own fate via antibody feedback. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2013, 210, 457-464.

Marshall, J., A. Flores-Langarica, R. A. Kingsley, J. R. Hitchcock, E. A. Ross, C. Lopez-Macias, J. Lakey, K.-M. Toellner, I. C. MacLennan, I. R. Henderson, G. Dougan, A. F. Cunningham. The capsular polysaccharide Vi from Salmonella Typhi is a B1b antigen. Journal of Immunology, 2012,189, 5527-5532.

Serre, K., A. F. Cunningham, R. E. Coughlan, A. Rot, E. Hub, K. Moser, R. Manz, A. Ferraro, R. Bird, K.-M. Toellner, J. Demengeot, I. C. M. MacLennan, E. Mohr. CD8 T cells induce T-bet-dependent migration towards CXCR3 ligands by differentiated B cells produced during responses to alum-protein vaccines. Blood, 2012, 120, 4552-4559.

Meyer-Hermann, M., E. Mohr, N. Pelletier, Y. Zhang, G. D. Victora, K.-M. Toellner. A novel theory of germinal center B cell selection, division, and exit. Cell Reports, 2012, 26, 162-174.

Bretz, J., J. Garcia, X. Huang, L. Kang, Y. Zhang, K.-M. Toellner, S. Chen-Kiang. Noxa mediates p18INK4c cell cycle control of homeostasis in B cells and plasma cell precursors. Blood, 2011, 117, 2179-2188.

Marshall, J. L., Y. Zhang, L. Pallan, M.-C. Hsu, M. Khan, A. Cunningham, I. C. M. MacLennan, K.-M. Toellner. Early B blasts acquire a capacity for Ig class switch recombination that is lost as they become plasmablasts. European Journal of Immunology, 2011, 41, 3506-3512.

Ryan, G., C. J. Wang, E. Schmidt, L. E. Clough, K. Attridge, K. Dunussi-Joannopoulos, K.-M. Toellner, L. S. K. Walker. B1 cells promote tissue infiltration by autoreactive T cells. Journal of Immunology, 2010, 185, 2800-2807.

Garin, A., M. Meyer-Hermann, M. Contie, M. T. Figge, V. Buatois, M. Gunzer, K.-M. Toellner, G. Elson, M. H. Kosco-Vilbois. Toll-Like Receptor 4 signaling by FDC is pivotal for delivering the consequences of germinal center responses. Immunity, 2010, 33, 84-95.