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Regulation of nucleic acid recognition by nucleases and metabolism

Effect of pyroptosis on nucleic acid metabolism and immune sensing (A06)



Project Ieader: Dr. Eva Bartok


The discrimination between physiological and pathological forms of cell death is critical to an appropriate immune response. In our preliminary work, we observed that pyroptotic cell death renders cellular corpses and their DNA immunostimulatory. Moreover, our data demonstrate that this effect is critically dependent on the presence of both the lysosomal endonuclease DNase II in pyroptotic cells and of cytosolic Three prime Repair Exonuclease 1 (TREX1) in recipient phagocytes: DNase II generates 3´-monophosphate termini (3’P DNA), rendering DNA resistant to degradation by TREX1. In this project, we aim to expand on these initial findings and investigate how this effect contributes to the recognition of intracellular pathogens during pyroptosis. In addition, we will investigate the role of the endogenous 3’ phosphatase PNKP in controlling these responses. 

Degradation of viral or immunostimulatory RNA in infected cells (A07) 



Project Ieader: Prof. Andreas Pichlmair 


The successful elimination of viral infections requires the targeting and degradation of viral nucleic acids. Surprisingly little is known regarding molecular mechanisms that are specifically targeting viral RNA and yet do not affect cellular RNA such as messenger, ribosomal or transfer RNA. This proposal aims at elucidating the half-life of viral nucleic acid and the functional characterization of pathways and proteins that are involved in this process. We anticipate that this knowledge will allow us to gain insights into the successful elimination of viruses and in physiological processes that aim to remove stimulatory RNA under steady state conditions.

Molecular mechanisms of Superkiller-like helicases (A08)



Project Ieader: Prof. Elena Conti 


Increasing evidence implicates the RNA exosome, a major complex in cellular RNA decay mechanisms, as a player in viral immunity and autoimmunity. The RNA exosome is a powerful RNA-degrading machine, but in itself lacks specificity. Superkiller-like helicases are believed to assist the exosome by recognizing specific RNAs and targeting them for degradation, but the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. In this project, we will study Superkiller-like helicases that have been linked to the regulation of RIG-I-like receptors, aiming to understand how they function at the molecular level and the basis for their malfunction in disease mutants.

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