Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam Group
Brief Research Description
Virus-host cell interactions and induction of anti-viral B cell responses
Viruses are under continuous pressure to evade host immune responses and they do so by many diverse mechanisms. We are interested in understanding these processes as they are likely to impact the outcome of infections substantially, not just the initial control of the infection but also the establishment of virus-specific adaptive immune responses. We are particularly interested in how early interactions between pathogens and immune cells influence the development of anti-viral B cell responses. Antibodies are central to how most vaccines work and a major focus in the group is to investigate B cell responses elicited by the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env), an unusually challenging vaccine target. The aim of this is identify strategies to direct B cell responses to conserved target epitopes of Env, such as the receptor-binding regions, and to uncover limitations of current vaccine strategies. In several projects in the group, we are studying the properties of vaccine-induced antibodies at the clonal level to understand the diversity and evolution of the response against HIV-1 Env. We also use other models antigens to investigate signals that determine how recently activated B cells are directed down an extra-follicular path or are recruited into germinal center reactions, decisions that are critical for the quality and the longevity of the response.
In addition, Gerry McInerney, a senior research scientist in the group, leads a project aimed at studying anti-viral stress responses that occur within hours of infection; responses that affect cell survival and may modulate the immunogenicity of the infected cell. Furthermore, together with project leader, Anna Smed Sörensen, we study viral interference of DC function, in particular the effect of influenza virus on the antigen presentation capacity of DCs. You can read more about Gerrys and Annas work below.