Division of Cellular Immunology
Prof. Dr. Hans-Reimer Rodewald
The department of Cellular Immunology is investigating physiological and pathological processes of the development of cells and organs in the immune system as well as their immunological functions.
We generated reporter knockin mice to demonstrate that T cells and myeloid cells (e.g. dendritic cells and granulocytes) arise in the thymus from distinct progenitors under physiological conditions. Moreover, a genetic block of Notch1 signals in T cell progenitors leads to their developmental deviation to dendritic cells instead of T cells.
T cell development and maturation occur in a discrete primary immunological organ, the thymus. Previous projects focussed on thymus organogenesis while in current projects we investigate functions of the transcription factor FoxN1 in thymic epithelial cells (TECs).
A central area of our research is the investigation of the roles of mast cells in the immune system. Different knockout mice enabled us to characterize an enzyme of the heparin biosynthesis pathway and to elucidate the mechanism by which mast cell proteases can degrade endothelin, a blood pressure regulating factor, and detoxify structurally related snake toxins.
Members of our team study the dynamic processes of stem cell differentiation and the plasticity of the development of mature immune cells. To this end, we develop mouse models in which stem cells and their progeny are inducibly labelled at a certain time point. Furthermore, we have generated ‘universal stem cell recipient’ mice which can be transplanted with bone marrow stem cells without the need for myeloablation, e.g. by irradiation. In another fate mapping project we are investigating the origins of different tissue resident macrophages like osteoclasts, Kupffer cells in the liver, and microglia in the central nervous system.
We are extending our thymus research towards unravelling mechanisms of acute T cell leukaemia (T-ALL) development. We discovered that thymocytes undergo transformation if they non-physiologically persist in the thymus. This occurs with surprisingly high incidence if the influx of fresh progenitors into the thymus is interrupted. We hope that this new T-ALL model shall enable us to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of T-ALL formation in the thymus.
Comprehensive investigations of mast cell functions remain a central area of our research. We have generated a mouse mutant, which is completely mast cell deficient but has an otherwise normal immune system. This new mouse represents an excellent model to clarify the question in which infections or diseases beyond allergy mast cells play immunological roles. Specifically, we will test the roles of mast cells in wound healing, asthma, responses to infections and in tumour models.
Schlenner SM et al. (2010) Fate mapping reveals separate origins of T cells and myeloid lineages in the thymus. Immunity 32:426–436.
Rodewald H-R (2008) Thymus organogenesis. Annu Rev Immunol 26:355–388.
Feyerabend TB, Weiser A, et al. (2011) Cre-Mediated Cell Ablation Contests Mast Cell Contribution in Models of Antibody- and T Cell-Mediated Autoimmunity. Immunity. 35:832–844.
Waskow C et al. (2009) Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation without irradiation. Nat Meth 6:267–269.