Dr Leonie UnterholznerResearch Fellow/Lecturer
My research group is interested in how cells can detect foreign DNA, for example when skin cells have been infected by a virus. This is part of the innate immune response, which acts within the first few hours of infection, with the aim to alert more specialised immune cells, and to eliminate the virus before it can spread to other parts of the body. We are investigating how a cell can distinguish viral DNA from its own DNA genome, and how it signals to alert neighbouring cells. We also study how cells can detect their own DNA as danger signal, when the DNA has been damaged by UV light or chemotherapy.
Our work investigates molecular mechanisms that underlie the immune response during infection, autoimmunity and cancer.
Current projects in my laboratory focus on the molecular mechanisms of intracellular DNA recognition. Projects include:
- The function of the DNA sensors cGAS and IFI16 in detecting DNA in the cytosol (funded by the MRC and the European Commision)
- The cell-intrinsic innate immune response to DNA damage (funded by the MRC and North West Cancer Research)
- Immune evasion strategies employed by DNA viruses and Leishmania parasites (PhD studentship funded by the Faculty of Health and Medicine and MSc projects)
I currently teach on the 3rd year module BIOL321 Clinical Immunology and the masters level module BIOL434 Emerging Therapeutics in Immunology. I also supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students during their research projects.
PhD Supervision Interests
Masters by Research projects available: 1. How does Vaccinia virus evade detection by the innate immune system? 2. How is intracellular DNA detected as "stranger" and "danger" signal by the innate immune system?
The role of innate immunity in the response to radiation-induced DNA damage in human skin cells
01/02/2019 → 30/04/2019
NWCR Equipment bid: Faxitron CellRad Irradiator
01/10/2018 → 31/03/2019
How does p53 link DNA damage to innate immunity?
01/01/2018 → 31/12/2020
Innate immune recognition of intracellular DNA as 'stranger' and 'danger' signal
01/01/2015 → 31/12/2018
Innate immune recognition of Herpes SImplex Virus in skin cells: Differences between neonatal and adult keratinocytes.
01/08/2014 → 28/02/2016
How do keratinocytes sense the presence of intracellular DNA?
01/02/2014 → 31/08/2015
Elucidating the molecular mechanism of intracellular DNA recognition by the innate immune sensor IFI16
01/02/2013 → 31/07/2018