Research Group Cell Differentiation
Prof. Dr. Angel Alonso
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is capable of modifying infected cells in a way that makes the cells more susceptible to later malignant transformation and subsequent development of cancer. Our working group is studying a protein which is considered key for this feature of papilloma viruses. We have discovered that virus protein E5 suppresses the cellular suicide program. Thus, the virus escapes the body’s own protective mechanisms and its host cell stays alive. Another characteristic of the E5 protein also helps to achieve this: it causes the cell to present only few MHC molecules on its surface. These serve to identify cells within an organism as "self" to passing cells of the immune system. In this way, the virus "hides" the infected cells from the body’s immune defense. Another project is concerned with mechanisms that may contribute to later transformation of cells causing them to divide at a higher rate. In this context we are studying ligand-independent activation of EGF receptors by external influences (UV light, specific messenger substances, changes in the physiological environment).