Massachusetts General Hospital
185 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 2114
My group is interested in the molecular basis of pathogen-host interaction and innate immune recognition. Innate Immunity is the body's first line of defense against invading pathogens. It serves to limit or prevent infections, and guides the immune response against an invader. The molecular sensors that are used for this purpose are called "Pattern Recognition Receptors". They recognize evolutionary conserved microbial molecules ("patterns") and are encoded by germline receptors. We are trying to identify unknown pattern recognition molecules and to determine how they function.
We use fruit flies as a model system, and combine genetics with molecular, biochemical, structural and cell biological approaches. In this way, we have discovered a novel phagocytic receptor that binds a broad range of microbial pathogens. This receptor is expressed on the surface of Drosophila macrophages and is critical for the survival of bacterial infections. It belongs to a new superfamily of proteins that occur in many organisms, including Drosophila and humans. Using this novel receptor as an example, we hope to uncover evolutionarily conserved signaling mechanisms that occur after phagocytic recognition. In addition, we are trying to identify pattern recognition receptors that bind to bacterial spores related to anthrax.
Kocks C, Cho JH, Nehme N, Johanna Ulvila J, Pearson AM, Meister M, Strom C, Conto SL, Hetru C, Stuart LM, Stehle T, Hoffmann JA, Reichhart J-M, Ferrandon D, Rämet M, and Ezekowitz RAB. Eater, a transmembrane protein mediating phagocytosis of bacterial pathogens in Drosophila. Cell 2005;123:335-48
Ulvila J, Parikka M, Kleino A, Sormunen R, Ezekowitz RA, Kocks C, and Ramet M. Double-stranded RNA is internalized by scavenger receptor-mediated endocytosis in Drosophila S2 cells. J Biol Chem 2006;281:14370-5
Stuart LM, Boulais J, Charriere GM, Hennessy EJ, Brunet S, Jutras I, Goyette G, Rondeau C, Letarte S, Huang H, Ye P, Morales F, Kocks C, Bader JS, Desjardins M, and Ezekowitz RAB. A systems biology analysis of the Drosophila phagosome. Nature 2007;445:95-101