Research foci Infection Immunology
As dendritic cells (DCs) are the major players initiating T cell responses and influencing T cell differentiation, the scientists of the Institute of Infection Immunology study the first steps of host-pathogen interaction at the DC level in various bacterial, viral and fungal infection models. DCs are part of the innate immune system that recognize microbial-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) from pathogens via pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and are at present crucial target cells for vaccination. Their previous work has led to the discovery of several MAMPs and, in part, their introduction into the clinic as new potent adjuvants. Using novel genetic models (BAC, CRISPR/Cas9 technology) the researchers try to address the following questions: Which roles do the various and highly-specialized sub-types of DCs play in different infections? What significance do certain pattern recognition receptors have for DC activation, antigen uptake and the corresponding T cell responses? How can they exploit this knowledge for more specific, safer adjuvants and better DC targeting approaches?
T effector cell immunomodulation
An immune response to microbes and vaccines is initiated when a dendritic cell (DC) takes up an antigen, becomes activated and presents it to naïve (CD4+) T helper (Th) cells. Th cells begin to proliferate and differentiate into specialized Th subsets (e.g. pro-inflammatory Th1, Th2, Th9, Th17 or anti-inflammatory regulatory T cells – Tregs) which help to establish humoral or cellular immunity or tolerance. Due to their central role in this multistep process, T cells are known to be at the core of immunological effector mechanisms. Defining new biomarkers for specific immune reactions will be extremely valuable for diagnostics and therapy. Since T cells are not only responsible for controlling tumor cells and pathogens, but also provide important mechanisms of tissue repair, the scientists mainly focus on T cells and the direct and indirect impact of microbial factors on T cell-mediated immunity as a central and unifying theme of their work.