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Research profile

Topic 1: Signal transduction

schwerpunkt1_klOne major research topic of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Immunology relates to the biochemical, molecular and functional analysis of signal transduction receptor complexes within the haematopoietic system.

During the last years, scientists of the institute have been able to identify, purify and clone the cDNAs for six novel signal transducing polypeptides present in haematopoietic cells (group of Burkhart Schraven).

The technical expertise includes classical biochemical and molecular biological techniques, such as immunoprecipitation, protein purification, RT-PCR and cDNA library screening. However, other state of the art methods such as the generation of knock-out and transgenic mice, as well as confocal laserscanning microscopy, biochemical analysis of protein-protein interactions and mass spectrometry are used as well.

The major research goal for the future is the functional analysis of the novel proteins that have been identified and cloned. To achieve these aims the scientists apply modern biochemical, molecular, cellular and genetic approaches.


The groups working on signal transduction mechanisms are (in alphabetical order):

Bommhardt Group

Kliche Group

A. Reinhold Group

Schraven Group

Simeoni Group

Witte Group


Topic 2: Proteolysis and inflammation

schwerpunkt2_klThe second research topic of the institute relates to the role of cellular proteases/peptidases during inflammatory processes.

In paticular, the Group of Dirk Reinhold examines the function of the ectopeptidase CD26 (Dipeptidypeptidase IV) in the immune system.


Topic 3: Systems Biology of T-cell activation

schwerpunkt3.jpgT-cell activation, whether induced by pathogens, tumor- or auto-antigens, is a complex process relying on multiple layers of tightly controlled intracellular signaling modules that form an intricate network.

Defects in this network can facilitate the development of severe and chronic disorders such as cancer or autoimmune diseases. While many of the molecules important for the activation of a T cell have been studied in detail, our understanding of how this decision is made is still incomplete.

Since the choice to become activated does not lie with one single receptor, but is rather the sum of multiple interactions occurring between a T cell and an antigen presenting cell, we (Lindquist Group) have begun by focusing on the receptors that are central to the activation process


Topic 4: Cellular Dynamics

synapseThis area deals with the cellular dynamics of immune responses (Gunzer Group). Here, the migration of individual immune cells is investigated within  living mice using intravital 2-photon microscopyan or  in vitro  within by means of time-lapse video microscopy. Main issues are the parameters of basal migration as well as their modification by physiologic or pathologic triggers.

The investigated target organs are peripheral lymph nodes, bone marrow, lung or brain. Another important aspect is the intercellular communication after formation of a physical contact between distinct cells which is happening e.g. during antigen presentation or defence against pathogens.

Topic 5: Mechanisms of Cell Death

schwerpunkt5_1The fifth research topic deals with the role of cell death mechanisms in the immune system (Schmitz Group). Cell death plays an important role in immunity since it may be induced in infected cells by immune cells to prevent spreading of a pathogen. On the other hand, unwanted immune cells are removed by cell death at the end of an immune response.

Morphologically, cell death can be quite diverse and can proceed as apoptosis, necrosis or cell death associated with autophagy. The signaling pathways regulating life and death decisions within the immune system are analyzed by biochemical, molecular biological and cell biological approaches including immunoprecipitation, isoform-specific RNA interference and confocal microscopy. In addition, transgenic and knock-out mouse models are used to analyze the in vivo function of the signaling molecules under investigation.


The group is located at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig