Monday 19. February 2018

New adjuvants derived from myxobacteria - HiLF stipend for Jenny Kühne

Dendritic Cells are of central importance for our immune system as they bridge the innate and the adaptive arm of our immunity. Not only are they very complex and of fascinating functional plasticity, Dendritic Cells are also considered as the most potent antigen-presenting cells. Therefore, they are ideal targets for novel vaccination approaches. To boost the immune reaction induced upon vaccination, adjuvant formulations are added to the vaccine. Dr. Jenny Kühne, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Infection Immunology, investigates Myxobacteria-derived secondary metabolites in order to identify natural adjuvants that specifically act on Dendritic Cells. The MHH is supporting this research project with a HiLF stipend, a one-year promotion for the young scientist to establish her own junior research group.

Myxobacteria are soil-dwelling bacteria characterized by a complex metabolism, enabling them to produce several hundred small molecules with diverse basic chemical structures. Many of those bioactive molecules have been assigned antitumor, antibacterial and antifungal properties. These natural compounds bear great potential for biomedical applications. “With the help of Soraphen A we could demonstrate the immunomodulatory capacity of Myxobacteria-derived secondary metabolites”, Prof. Tim Sparwasser, Director of the Institute of Infection Immunology, explains. “Soraphen A impacts on the differentiation and function of T cells.” Therefore, the researchers reasoned that myxobacterial compounds could be capable of influencing other immune cells, such as Dendritic Cells. “Thus, I have been analyzing approximately 300 myxobacterial compounds on Dendritic Cells and, indeed, have found a family of substances capable of activating Dendritic Cells irrespective of further receptor-mediated stimulation of the cells.”, Jenny Kühne explains.

In further studies, she will be investigating the precise mechanism of action of the compound family: “As soon as we have a better understanding of how those secondary metabolites impact on Dendritic Cells, and have analyzed their potential, both in bacterial and viral infection models, we might be able to develop a new class of adjuvants”, Jenny Kühne further elucidates. Contrary to currently employed additives, the myxobacterial adjuvants would not induce an unspecific immune response, but directly act on the key players of our immune system, namely the cells linking the innate with the adaptive immunity.


Dr. Jenny Kühne, jenny.kühne(at)
Tel: +49 (0)511-220027-206

Prof. Dr. Tim Sparwasser, tim.sparwasser(at)
Tel: +49 (0)511-220027-201