The group has a long standing interest in decephering virus-host interactions, mainly at the level of receptor interaction, membrane dynamics and membrane proximal signaling in T and professional antigenpresenting cells. Major research foci are:
1.The role of attachment and entry receptors in measles virus (MV) infection and transmission. In that context we specifically address MV uptake into professional antigen-presenting cells (focussing on dendritic and Langerhans cells) and subsequent transmission to conjugating T cells. Receptor signaling in response to MV interaction is also analyzed with regard to modulation of membrane sphingolipids and signaling pathways important in DC activation. This also includes analyses addressing the compromised ability of DCs exposed to or infected with MV to promote T cell activation. We have recently extended our analyses on receptor mediated regulation of DC activity by using envelope proteins of human endogenous retroviruses as effectors.
2. The analysis of basic parameters governing MV transmission from infected immune cells to their targets is being extended to 3D systems.
3. The role of MV receptors for MV interference with T cell receptor signaling. These studies involve studies on the role of the identified entry receptors and those currently approached in MV T cell silencing as well as coupling of these receptors to signaling pathways. In that context we specifically address mechanisms of MV-mediated sphingomyelinase activation and consequences on cytoskeletal dynamics, TCR signaling, and architecture of the immune synapse. These approaches enable us to understand the role of sphingolipid dynamics in physiological TCR signaling which we are currently exploring.
4. The studies performed on the role of sphingomyelin breakdown in MV-induced T cell paralysis are a subproject of the research unit 2123 (FOR2123http://www.virologie.uni-wuerzburg.de/for2123/home0/) where the general role of these major membrane lipid constituents are analyzed with regard to pathogen-host interaction. In addition to the individual research interests, novel tools and techniques allowing to monitor and visualize certain sphingolipids are being established in a collaborative approach.