We have used two different strategies to assess how the innate (fast, unspecific) immune system communicates with the adaptive (slower, specific, capable of memory) immune system.
A. In a hypothesis driven-approach, we have characterized a new and very sensitive pathway by which natural killer (NK) cell-mediated killing (innate immunity) leads to an efficient priming of T and B cells (adaptive effectors). This study assigns NK cells an important function at the interface of innate and adaptive immunity, which may be applied for vaccine design.
B. We have also screened randomly mutagenized mice to discover genes that make a non-redundant contribution to the communication between innate and adaptive immune defenses. Several mutant lines could be identified; some involving well-characterized proteins and pathways, some revealing so far poorly described genes, with sometimes phenotypes that were initially unexpected. These mutants can be proposed as novel models to investigate human conditions ranging from mitochondrial disease, autoimmunity, inflammatory bowel disease to cancer.