The innate immune response against intracellular bacterial pathogens
We study how bacterial pathogens are detected by host cells as well as strategies used by them to evade innate immune recognition.
The innate immune system provides the first line of defense against infections by rapidly recognizing and eliminating invading microbes. An important component of innate immunity are pattern recognition receptors, which are sensors that constantly monitor the extracellular and intracellular space of host cells for molecules of bacterial origin. Once the presence of bacteria is detected, these sensors initiate an inflammatory response.
The inflammasome activates various defense mechanisms
A subset of these pattern recognition receptors initiates the assembly of cytosolic multi-protein signaling complexes called inflammasomes. These complexes activate caspases, inflammatory enzymes, which control the release of cytokines. Another function of these caspases is the induction of pyroptosis, a novel form of cell death that kills the infected cell and restricts pathogen replication.
A model system to study host-pathogen interaction
To investigate the complex interaction between the host immune system and bacterial pathogens, we use Salmonella typhimurium, a model intracellular pathogen that survives and multiplies in macrophages. Effective host defense against Salmonella requires a crosstalk between the inflammasome and other inflammatory pathways.
Treating infectious and inflammatory diseases
Our goal is to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying inflammasome activation during bacterial infection and the bacterial strategies used to evade innate immunity. Ultimately, our findings may lead to new and innovative approaches for the prevention and treatment of infectious as well as inflammatory diseases.