Posttranslational modification with Ubiquitin related modifiers of the SUMO family
Molecular Mechanisms of Viral Oncogenesis
The co-evolution of viruses with their hosts has led to the selection of a broad repertoire of viral strategies for manipulation of the cellular environment. By acting as a Trojan horse for cell invasion, viruses have taught us many of the basic principles that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation and death. Our research focuses on human tumor viruses.
Papilloma viruses (HPV), hepatitis B- (HBV) and C-viruses (HCV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Kaposi sarcoma virus (KSHV), human T-cell-leukemia virus (HTLV) may contribute to the pathogenesis of as much as 15-20% of all human cancers. A common feature of these oncogenic viruses is their capacity to establish persistent infections that are either asymptomatic or are accompanied by benign cell proliferations. Progression to malignancy is associated with the expression of viral proteins whose primary function is to drive virus replication by regulating cell proliferation, apoptosis and the recognition of infected cells by the immune system. Many of these viral products interfere with the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) that controls protein turnover and trafficking.
Our main virus model is EBV, a lymphotropic herpes virus that is associated with lymphoid and epithelial cell malignancies including Burkitt's lymphoma (BL), nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), immunoblastic lymphoma (IL) and Hodgkin's disease (HD). We study the mechanism by which EBV proteins expressed in malignant cells modify the cellular environment and regulate the interaction of the infected cells with the host immune system.
Prof. Thomas Sommer is Deputy Scientific Director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz-Association and a member of the Board of Directors of the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK).
Thomas Sommer studied biology at the Freie Universität Berlin. He received his doctorate from the same university with a dissertation at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics in 1988. Between 1989 and 1993 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society in Tübingen. Since 1993, Professor Sommer has been a research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, where he investigates the mechanisms of protein quality control. He received an honorary professorship at the Charité in 2006 and a professorship for Cellular Biochemistry at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin in 2009. In 2003, he was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and in 2012, he received the Science Prize of the German Technion Society.
Professor Sommer was a member in the Senate Committee for Collaborative Research Centers of the German Research Foundation (DFG) from 2008 to 2014, after having been a member in the Committee for DFG-Graduate Programs from 2006 to 2008. Since 2014 he has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Center for Biotechnology of the University of Duisburg-Essen.
René Medema became director of the NKI in 2012, and brought an established research group to the institute. He has extensive experience studying the mechanisms underlying cell division, particularly the molecular checkpoints that control progression of the cell cycle.
Many classic anti-cancer drugs kill cells by targeting the cell cycle, for example by damaging DNA or by perturbing assembly of the mitotic spindle, which is required for cell division. René's group aims to gain a clearer understanding of the cellular responses to these drugs in order to better predict drug responses and experimentally test new and potentially more effective anti-cancer strategies.
Susan M. Gasser is the director of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, a position she assumed in 2004. In parallel, she holds a professorship at the University of Basel and runs an active research laboratory at the FMI. Prior to joining the FMI, she was a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Geneva.
Susan studied at the University of Chicago and completed her PhD at the University of Basel (Biochemistry; G. Schatz), working on the import of mitochondrial proteins. As a postdoctoral fellow, she studied the long-range folding of the genome in flies and human cells. She identified topoisomerase II as a structural component of mitotic chromosomes, and AT-rich sequences as elements of loop organization. From 1986-2001, as a research group leader at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, she combined genetic approaches and fluorescence microscopy to examine the impact of nuclear organization on genome function – specifically on heritable gene repression in yeast.
Susan Gasser's studies have continued to examine how nuclear organization impinges on mechanisms of repair and replication fork stability and on epigenetic inheritance of cell fate decisions. She exploits the genetics of model organisms in her studies, as well as quantitative live fluorescence imaging. Her laboratory identified mechanisms that tether telomeres and silent chromatin at the nuclear envelope. In parallel, they identified roles for RecQ helicases, checkpoint kinases and ORC in the maintenance of genome integrity. Over the last 10 years she has examined the role of nuclear organization and heterochromatin in the development of the nematode, C. elegans. The laboratory has contributed to our understanding of signals and anchors involved in chromatin positioning, both for active and inactive genes, and for various types of DNA double strand break repair.
She has authored more than 250 primary articles and reviews, and has received a number of awards for her work, including election to the Académie de France, to the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award 2012, the Weizmann Institute Women in Science award 2013, the INSERM International Prize in 2011, and both the Otto Naegeli Award and the Gregor Mendel Medal in 2006. She was a member of the President’s Science and Technology Advisory Council of the European Commission, and serves on scientific review panels for institutes across Europe.