Edinburgh Research Explorer

Kevin Robertson, BSc, PhD

(Former employee or visitor)

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh
The functional significance of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes in the immune response to murine gammaherpesvirus 68
Bachelor of Science, University of Edinburgh
Medical Microbiology

Research Interests

MicroRNA regulation of immunity and metabolism

My research in a nutshell

I am interested in characterising how immune cells work. In particular, how cells of the immune system help the body to resist infection. MicroRNA are small molecules found in the cell that influence immune cell function by regulating the abundance of a particular protein or proteins.

My research has shown that during inflammation, cells produce a microRNA that suppresses the production of the fatty substance cholesterol. As a consequence, important viruses (e.g. Flu) that depend on cholesterol are inhibited.

Cholesterol is a major structural component of the cell and its dysregulation is linked to several diseases. The discovery of a new inflammatory regulator may also help us understand how heart and nervous system diseases develop and provide new targets for therapeutic intervention.

Current Research Interests

My interests lie in characterising how microRNAs function to regulate immunity and couple the immune response to metabolism.

It is now accepted that the regulation of lipid metabolism is an integral component of the immune response, however, we do not know the precise molecular mechanisms linking, for example, interferon to sterol biosynthesis. Using novel methods for the simultaneous analysis of transcript synthesis, abundance and decay and techniques such as high-throughput lipidomics, my work has recently uncovered a new post-transcriptional link between the immune system and cholesterol metabolism.

Specifically, I’ve shown that an interferon-induced miRNA utilises multi-hit pathway targeting to suppress sterol biosynthesis and establish broad cellular resistance to unrelated clinically significant viruses.

Beyond its role in infection, the ability of an inflammatory miRNA to directly regulate lipid metabolism has important implications in a range of cardiovascular or neurological diseases. These are areas I’ll be exploring in the near future.

Collaborative Activity

Active collaborations related to my current work are with:

Dr Lars Dolken (University of Cambridge)

- Analysis of de novo RNA and transcript half-life in the understanding of macrophage responses to viral infection.

Professor William Griffiths (University of Swansea)

- Mass Spectrometry analysis of sterol pathway regulation by miRNA

Dr Esperanza Perucha and Prof. Andrew Cope (Kings College, London)

- Effects of sterol pathway modulation in CD46 induced T lymphocyte phenotype switching


Kevin graduated from Edinburgh University with a BSc in Medical Microbiology and a PhD in which his research focused on the adaptive immune responses to virus infection. He continued this research at Edinburgh University as a post-doctoral researcher then left the academic track to project manage collaborative genomics projects and then a EU project integrating Medical and Bio-informatics in the study of Macrophage inflammatory pathway responses. Since his return to a research track, Kevin has pursued his interests in the role of macrophages in infection and secured funding from the BBSRC to investigate mechanisms by which microRNA couple immunity and lipid metabolism.


Division of Pathway Medicine





B.Sc (Hons). PhD.


My teaching activities are currently focused on two areas:

As a course organizer on the online CMID MSc programme, my clinical colleagues and I deliver an Introduction to Immunity course providing a basic introduction to core Immunology concepts and a framework for student-centred, self-directed learning through open-ended assessments.

As an Honours Infectious Diseases tutor, I’m interested in the ongoing delivery of an accessible and engaging teaching programme enabling scientific and intercalating students to become collaborative scientific practitioners. In this role, I’m looking to test the potential of concepts such as assessment literacy on the enhancement of student learning.



Year 2

Microorganisms, Infection and Immunity (MII2)

Literature comprehension manager, tutor, marker (2017)

Year 3

Clinical Immunology and Haematology



Year 4

Honours core programmes

Honours Infectious Diseases:

Tutor, Project Supervisor, Marker

Honours electives

Host-pathogen interactions in Infectious Disease

Postgraduate (MSc)

Online distance learning MSc

Course Organiser. MSc Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases - Introduction to Immunity.

Office Hours

8:30 to 16:00

ID: 283347