Our research is dealing with the multiple functions of viral envelope proteins. These glycoproteins play crucial roles in infection by mediating attachment to cellular receptors and by inducing fusion between viral and cellular membranes. The envelope proteins contribute to the host and cell tropism of viruses and often contain important determinants of virulence. In addition, they are involved in virus maturation and release and represent important antigens which are targeted by the immune response of the host. The activity of these fascinating molecular machines is often linked to post-translational modifications such as proteolytic cleavage and glycosylation.
As an experimental approach we take advantage of reverse genetics, i.e. the generation of recombinant viruses from transfected cDNA. This approach allows us to study the impact of site-directed mutations on the replication of infectious RNA viruses in vitro and in vivo. Recombinant pseudotype viruses are generated in order to analyze the glycoproteins of highly pathogenic viruses under BSL-2 conditions. They are also used for the detection and quantification of virus neutralizing antibodies. In addition, a generic vaccine platform based on RNA replicon particles has been established and evaluated for influenza and bluetongue viruses. Finally, our group is interested in the molecular determinants that determine efficient transmission of influenza viruses in poultry.