Phone: +49 (0) 761 203 6579, Fax: +49 (0) 761 203 5350
Our work is aimed at understanding the role of virus-induced interferon (IFN) in host defense against influenza virus. In a first project, we try to determine which role type III IFN (IFN-λ) might play during infection of susceptible hosts with influenza A viruses. We hypothesize that IFN-λ mainly restricts influenza virus growth in epithelial cells of the upper respiratory tract, thereby limiting person-to-person spread of the virus. Crucial tools for these studies are knockout mice which lack functional receptors for IFN-λ. In a second project, we try to understand how IFN-induced Mx proteins restrict influenza virus growth. A unique tool for this research is a new transgenic mouse line which carries a large piece of human chromosomal DNA that includes the complete human Mx locus. We found that human Mx-transgenic mice are robustly resistant to highly pathogenic influenza A viruses of avian origin, but show a surprisingly high degree of susceptibility to influenza A viruses of human origin. Therefore, we hypothesize that the latter viruses may have acquired adaptive mutations which confer resistance to the human Mx restriction factor. By recognizing Mx resistance-conferring adaptive mutations we hope to identify critical viral target structures and to get insights into the mechanisms by which Mx proteins inhibit influenza viruses.