The Laboratory for Integrative Cell and Infection Biology studies viral-host cell interactions of highly pathogenic zoonotic viruses in order to better understand how these interactions facilitate or impair viral infections, and how they influence the outcome of an infection. This work aims to understand pathogenicity determinants, and to characterize pro- and antiviral virus-host cell interactions that have the potential for exploitation as therapeutic targets. In the long term this enables the development of broadly effective drugs that are effective against both known and emerging viruses, and allows us to quickly assess the pathogenicity potential of emerging viruses.
Of particular interest to our laboratory are filoviruses (especially ebola-, marburg- and cuevaviruses) and highly pathogenic arenaviruses (especially Lassa and Junín viruses). These viruses are zoonotic agents that are transmitted from animal hosts to humans, and can then cause haemorrhagic fevers and neurological diseases with sometimes very high case fatality rates. Infectious work with these viruses takes place in the FLI’s biosafety level 4 laboratory for zoonotic agents. To complement this work we have developed a number of life-cycle modelling systems that allow to investigate the replication cycle of such highly pathogenic viruses safely outside of biosafety level 4 laboratories, and which are particularly suitable for use with high-throughput approaches such as siRNA screens. In addition to work on highly pathogenic zoonotic viruses we cooperate with other laboratories of the Institute of Molecular Virology and Cell Biology in order to study virus-host cell interactions also in the context of other zoonotic and animal pathogens.
A methodological focus of the laboratory is the production of recombinant viruses by means of reverse genetics, which we use together with life-cycle modelling systems to study individual virus-host cell interactions in more detail. In this context we apply a broad spectrum of virological, molecular biological and cell biological methods, such as Crispr/Cas9, confocal live cell microscopy, mutation analyses and CoIP methods. In addition, modern mass spectrometric approaches are pursued in cooperation with other laboratories of the Institute of Molecular Virology and Cell Biology.