How microbes shape the immune system
The Zychlinsky lab proposes the hypothesis that the multitude of diseases is based on only a limited number of molecular pathways. This is why we work on very different diseases which are caused either by an infection or by an endogenous stimulus.
This protein complex is formed inside cells of the innate immune system as a reaction to infection, tissue damage, or other danger signals. The composition of the inflammasome differs depending on the nature of the activator and leads to an inflammation. We would like to understand how the immune system measures the danger and regulates the answer in infections and degenerative diseases. (Nikolaus Deigendesch, Bärbel Raupach, Sebastian Virreira-Winter)
Neutrophils and NETs
Most of the white blood cells of humans are neutrophils. They have different strategies for fighting microbes, and we are especially interested in one of them: Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs). NETs are extracellular structures made of chromatin and specific proteins. They are released from the neutrophil after a unique cell death program and are essential for trapping and killing even large microorganisms such as fungi. However, NETs also may trigger autoimmune responses. (Borko Amulic, Bart Bardoel, Juana de Diego, CJ Harbort, Lars Kühn, Nancy Martinez, Kathleen Metzler, Alejandro Sánchez, Anna Zumsteg)
Immunity and Development
Eukaryotic organisms package their genetic information into chromatin by winding up DNA around cores of histones. Interestingly, histones have a double function: They not only regulate gene expression by controlling condensation of DNA, but also play an important role in immune defense as antimicrobial components. We use Drosophila melanogaster as a model system to study the antimicrobial capacity of histones in evolution and their functions in gene regulation during multicellular development. (Christoph Gericke, Alf Herzig)