Michaela Gack – TRIM Proteins and the Future of Virology

Michaela Gack – TRIM Proteins and the Future of Virology


(calm piano music) – What is unique about our research is that we look at both sides of the coin. We look at human cells and how the human immune response works, but on the other hand
we learn from viruses and how they block the
human immune response. My name is Michaela Gack and I am associate
professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago. I was born in Kohlberg, it’s a very small town in the south of Germany and I arrived in the U.S. in 2005. When I was an undergraduate
student, I studied tumor viruses and this is really when I
became fascinated by viruses and their sophisticated mechanisms, how they manipulate our immune system. The major focus of my lab is to understand how human cells detect viruses and then initiate a defense program to block virus replication. RIG-I is this intracellular
and viral RNA sensor in all of our cells to detect viruses. When I started my PhD in 2005, we just had learned that RIG-I and other intracellular sensors exist, but we didn’t know at all
how these sensors work and this was the time when I decided to study this new
intracellular sensing pathway. (upbeat music) It had been shown that TRIM
proteins can directly bind and antagonize viral components. Thereby, blocking viral infections. So, we used a proteomics approach and found that RIG-I is
modified by TRIM25 with a mark. A mark of proteins called ubiquitins, to activate the antiviral immune response. TRIM proteins, we now know can boost actually the human immune response and there by block viral infection. Our work could lead to ways in the future, how we can boost or
dampen the immune response in situations such as
in auto-immune diseases or pro-inflammatory disorders. We study mainly emerging viruses. Viruses that occur either every year and they can reemerge, for example, influenza virus and mosquito
transmitted viruses, which includes dengue, West Nile virus and also Zika virus. We use the knowledge we have gained from our molecular studies to generate recombinant mutant viruses. We can really use what we have learned for the development of new vaccines or also for antiviral strategies. And this is where I see the future in the next five to ten years in virology. (upbeat music)

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