• 15 Innovation Walk, 75

    3800 Clayton

1985 …2021
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Personal profile


Understanding the role of nutrition and the gut microbiome in physiology

Eminent immunologist Professor Charles Mackay is exploring an exciting new concept- that nutrition and the gut microbiome have profound influences on physiology, particularly immune responses (see Maslowski and Mackay, Nature Immunology 2009 and Thorburn, Macia and Mackay, Immunity 2014). Charles Mackay demonstrated that dietary fibre and its breakdown fermented products, the short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) influence gut homeostasis, the composition of the gut microbiota, immune tolerance, and inflammatory responses. His research focuses on cellular and molecular pathways, such as the 'metabolite-sensing GPCRs, and epigenetic pathways including HDAC inhibition.

Charles Mackay believes there is considerable potential to manipulate immune responses using 'medicinal foods', as well as novel gut microbial species. He is developing new diets that release very high amounts of beneficial SCFAs in the gastrointestinal tract.  

'This is an exciting area for us. People perhaps haven't totally appreciated how connected these major systems are. They influence one another. The microbes that colonise our intestinal tract are a part of this mix. Understanding how diet and the metabolism of dietary substances affect gut microbes and how they affect our immune system is a brand new direction in medical research.'

He says immunologists in the past did not give much credence to prebiotics (beneficial foodstuffs) and probiotics (beneficial microbes) as affecting immune function and inflammatory diseases. These concepts were regarded as being on the fringe of acceptable science. 'That's partly because scientists like to see the molecular mechanisms before they will fully accept new ideas. If you have a phenomenon or an observation and can couple that with a molecule or gene, then you can see the entire picture.'

Metabolite-sensing GPCRs
The interaction between the body's immune and metabolic systems is another major area of research that Charles is leading at Clayton. Charles is a leader in the field of 'metabolite-sensing GPCRs, receptors that play dual roles in immune responses and metabolism. Charles published on the relevance of the main receptor characterised to date, GPR43 (Maslowski et al Nature 2009). His main interest currently is GPR65, which he believes is fundamental for barrier homeostasis (gut, skin and lung). 

Charles believes that the incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, allergies and asthma, and auto-immune diseases in Western countries relate to a changing diet. Reduced fibre and fish, increased processed foods and resulting obesity has altered the mix of microbes and the things they produce. All this changes our immune system, gut homeostasis and the regulation of inflammatory responses. 

Leukocyte trafficking through the body

Charles has received international recognition for major breakthroughs in understanding the role of white blood cells and how they move around the body (see review, Von Andrian and Mackay, NEJM 2000). This work has also led to new understanding on how Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infects cells. His more recent research into leukocyte traffic to inflamed tissues has resulted in the development of a new antibody treatment (anti-C5aR), now in human clinical trials. Charles is an expert on chemokines and their receptors and is exploring the biological roles of receptors such as CXCR7, CCR6 and CXCR3. 


  • T-cell migration
  • GPCR biology
  • nutrition and immunology
  • gut microbiota

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Projects 2009 2021

Research Output 1985 2019

Intergenerational Prevention Of Heart Failure Through Maternal Intake Of High Fibre

Jama, H. A., Shihata, W., Ziemann, M. D., Donner, D. G., Kiriazis, H., Du, X-J., El-Osta, A., Mackay, C. R., Kaye, D. M. & Coelho Marques, F., Feb 2019.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractOther

Short-chain fatty acids and FFAR2 as suppressors of bone resorption

Montalvany-Antonucci, C. C., Duffles, L. F., de Arruda, J. A. A., Zicker, M. C., de Oliveira, S., Macari, S., Garlet, G. P., Madeira, M. F. M., Fukada, S. Y., Andrade, I., Teixeira, M. M., Mackay, C., Vieira, A. T., Vinolo, M. A. & Silva, T. A., 1 Aug 2019, In : Bone. 125, p. 112-121 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Beyond gut feelings: How the gut microbiota regulates blood pressure

Marques, F. Z., Mackay, C. R. & Kaye, D. M., 1 Jan 2018, In : Nature Reviews Cardiology. 15, 1, p. 20-32 13 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

C5a receptor 1 promotes autoimmunity, neutrophil dysfunction and injury in experimental anti-myeloperoxidase glomerulonephritis

Dick, J., Gan, P. Y., Ford, S. L., Odobasic, D., Alikhan, M. A., Loosen, S. H., Hall, P., Westhorpe, C. L., Li, A., Ooi, J. D., Woodruff, T. M., Mackay, C. R., Kitching, A. R., Hickey, M. J. & Holdsworth, S. R., 1 Mar 2018, In : Kidney International. 93, 3, p. 615-625 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Gαs-coupled GPCRs GPR65 and GPR174. Downers for immune responses

Robert, R. & Mackay, C. R., 1 Apr 2018, In : Immunology and Cell Biology. 96, 4, p. 341-343 3 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialOtherpeer-review

Open Access


Fellow. Australian Academy of Science

Charles Mackay (Recipient), 2009

Prize: Election to learned society

GSK Prize for Research Excellence

Charles Mackay (Recipient), 6 Jun 2009

Prize: Prize (including medals and awards)

Press / Media

Gut Health

Charles Mackay


1 media contribution

Press/Media: Research