RNomics in Infections

Coordinator:    Prof. Dr. Juergen Brosius
Institution: Universität Münster
Based on recent whole genome sequences in various model organisms and computational and experimental mining of non-protein coding RNA molecules (ncRNAs) it is clear that not only proteins but also RNAs are important entities of the cell, functioning both as housekeeping or regulatory RNAs. An important class of regulatory ncRNA genes encodes tiny RNA molecules, so called microRNAs (miRNAs). They play important roles in various biological processes, such as development, differentiation, apoptosis or proliferation. Related tiny RNAs that are double-stranded, termed short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), are involved in natural RNA interference (RNAi) in natural processes of the cell including host defense. RNAi has become a powerful tool in shutting down gene expression in various experimental systems in vivo and ex vivo. Our project focuses on the role of ncRNAs during life threatening infections such as AIDS, malaria, typhus or bacterial meningitis. However, they also play important roles during frequent but less threatening infections such as chlamydiosis, infectious gastritis or toxoplasmosis. On one hand we will identify ncRNAs that are encoded by the pathogen itself, but also we hope to identify ncRNA genes encoded by the host that are activated in pathways during infection. Recurring ncRNAs that are activated by different pathogens are of particular interest. We examine in vitro and in vivo the roles of identified ncRNAs during pathogenicity or host defense. Experimental manipulation both of host and pathogen encoded genes via RNAi is now a well-established methodology. We hope to be able to detect novel and efficient strategies of prevention and therapy of the addressed infections. This is of utmost importance in light of increasing resistance of pathogens against known drugs. Through our research, we hope to provide novel and efficient strategies in the fight against infections, which, worldwide is a major threat to human health and existence.

Latest results can be found in detail in the descriptions of the subprojects
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