Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - X-TALK (Investigation of the cross-talk between innate and adaptive immunity)

The vertebrate immune system has long been considered to be a bipartite entity encompassing two independent and isolated arms: innate immunity, providing the first line of defense, and adaptive immunity, triggered at a later stage and responsible for immunological memory. However, there is now cumulative evidence that these two arms are intimately linked and can modulate each other. Yet several of the mechanisms underlying the communication pathways between innate and adaptive immune cells are still elusive.
The goal of this project is to investigate how two defined cell types of the innate immune system may differentially regulate adaptive immune responses depending on the inflammatory environment, i.e. during conditions of infectious versus sterile (or non-infectious) inflammation. In particular, we have used different mouse models to investigate the function of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) and natural killer (NK) cells – both innate immune effectors – for the priming (or activation) of (adaptive) antigen-specific T cells during sterile inflammation and upon infection with a model pathogen. We demonstrated the role of pDCs in modulating the activation of NK cells, dependent on the functionality of molecules involved in pathogen sensing. In addition, we have revealed a novel role of a pro-apoptotic Tumor necrosis factor family member in regulating NK cell function and adaptive immune response. Taken together, our research has uncovered novel immunomodulatory mechanisms involved in pathogen control, tumor surveillance and immunopathology, which are of clinical relevance. In addition to this scientific progress, I have also managed to establish a functional laboratory currently comprising one postdoctoral fellow, two PhD students – all supported by third party money – as well as one MSc student and a technician. Furthermore, I plan to hire two additional laboratory members within the next few months, also salaried using third party money. Since my start as an independent P.I., I have as a main applicant raised a total of more than 1.5 million CHF in funding for my research. I have also received two equipment grants and some of my staff were able to secure several fellowships. I have built a solid scientific network for collaborations with several groups and clinicians in Switzerland as well as with an industrial partner. I am a regular lecturer of several classes, tutorials and practical workshops for medical and biology students. I also act as coordinator and organizer of a course on histology and general pathology for biomedical and cell biology students. I supervise BSc, MSc and PhD students. I am also a member of the Expert Commission of the Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences of the University of Bern, thereby mentoring or co-advising about 15 PhD students. Lastly, I recently published two peer-reviewed manuscripts as a senior author.
A German version is available for my group website, with a short lay summary of our research projects, including the current project. An English version of this website will be available in a few weeks:

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Life Sciences
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