Research topics (WE 06)

Workgroup Hartmann

Research topic: „Immune regulation in helminth infections“

We are currently focusing on the following projects:

Research Focus I:

  • Modulation of cells of the innate immune system and T cell populations by nematodes
    A focus of scientific interest in our group is the modulation of the host immune system by nematode infection. In particular, we are interested in the question of which cells, receptors and signalling pathways of the immune system are targeted..
    Makrophage-T cell interaction


    Immune cells attac a filarial larva
    Source: Oliver Meckes; Eye of Science
    • These projects are supported by the following programs:
    SFB 650
    IRTG 1673 
  • Target cell: Macrophage
    Our studies show that macrophages play an important role in nematode-induced immune modulation (Schnöller et al. 2008, Figueiredo et al. 2009, Klotz et al. in revision). Signal transduction analyses indicate that the MAP-kinase signalling pathway is targeted in macrophages. Targeting of this signal transduction pathway in macrophages is connected with specific feedback signals via phosphatases that are dephosphorylated by MAP kinases (Klotz et al. 2011).
  • Modulation of macrophages and the development of the helminth infection
    In this project we address the role of the modulated macrophage in the development of the helminth infection. Our working hypothesis is that susceptibility to infection depends on the efficiency of macrophage modulation induced by the helminth. These studies are carried out in cooperation with the University of Hyderabad (India) and the Blue Peter Research Centre (Hyderabad, India).
  • Target cell: Mast cell
    Another cell of the innate immune system in which we are particularly interested is the mast cell. In cooperation with Prof. M. Maurer (Charité, Berlin), we are researching the role of the mast cell in intestinal nematode infection. This research into the establishment of a Th2 response in helminth infection gives insight not only into the immunological understanding of helminth infections but also leads to a better understanding of the Th2 responses in allergic reactions.
  • Target cell: T cell
    A further interest of our group is to address the role of T cell responses in nematode infections. In particular, we could show that very effective regulatory T cells are induced in the development of a nematode infection. During infection, via the development of these suppressive T cells, strong Th2 responses and immunopathology in the host are suppressed (Rausch et al. 2008, Rausch et al 2009). Studies into the induction of regulatory T cells and the conversion of already-differentiated T cell populations will show whether nematodes spontaneously induce a regulatory phenotype or can reprogram local differentiated T cell populations.

Research Focus II

  • Characterisation of immune regulatory components and their application for modulation of immune related disorders
    Parasites secrete immune modulators to influence diverse arms of the immune system. A better understanding of the immune modulatory parasitic worms and their mechanisms could contribute to the development of new therapeutics that ameliorate immunopathological disorders.
    These projects are supported by the following programs:
    American Broad Foundation
    SFB 852
    GK 1121
  • Application of recombinant immune modulators for immune intervention
    We are analysing whether regulatory molecules from tissue-dwelling and intestinal nematodes that were identified and cloned by our group can be used for immune intervention of murine infectious disorders (Hartmann & Lucius 2003, Sereda et al. 2008, Rzepecka et al. 2006, Rzepecka et al. 2009). In particular we are interested in the mechanisms that lead to an amelioration of the disease (Schnöller et al. 2008, Hartmann et al. 2009, Danilowicz et al. 2011).

    Modulation of allergic disorders by nematodes (Danilowicz-Luebert et al. 2011)
  • Identification of relevant immunomodulators
    A further focus of our workgroup is the identification of new immune modulators. Thus we are researching secreted molecules of pig whip worm larvae (Hepworth et al. 2010) (with kind support from the company Ovamed, Hamburg) as well as secreted molecules of the intestinal nematode H. polygyrus.
    T. suis egg
    Heligmosomoides polygyrus
  • Application of helminth immune modulation in animal diseases
    A further focus of our work is to research whether helminth-induced immune modulation can also be used in diseased animals. Thus in cooperation with Prof. B. Kohn, FU Berlin and the company Ovamed, Hamburg, we are analysing whether pig whipworm eggs in dogs can produce an effect equivalent to that seen in humans. Furthermore, we are analysing whether helminth immune modulators are sufficient to modulate swine intestinal infection. The longterm goal is to avoid application of infectious parasitic material (T. suis eggs or hookworm infection) and instead to use modulatory parasitic components to suppress inflammatory reactions.

Research Focus III

  • Bacterial microflora and coinfection
    Intestinal nematodes live in constant contact with bacterial flora present in the gut. At the same time there is evidence that nematodes have a positive influence on inflammatory intestinal disorders. In this context we are addressing the following questions: (A) what influence does an intestinal nematode infection have on the bacterial microflora in different anatomical locations of the gut? To what extent does the Th2 response induced by a helminth infection alter the gut flora? (B) Is there a connection between the bacterial flora and the helminth-induced immune modulation? (C) What influence does a nematode infection have on coinfection in the gut?
  • Coinfection
    We are interested in coinfection of the small intestinal nematode H. polygyrus and the appendix-parasitising Protozoan Eimeria. A further project which is being carried out in cooperation with Prof. G. von Samson-Himmelstjerna (FU, Berlin) is focusing on the influence of coinfection on infections transmitted via reservoir-competent ticks in urban areas.
    These projects are supported by the following programs:
    American Broad Foundation
    Einstein Stiftung Berlin und IRTG 1673

Workgroup Schmidt

  • Modulation of prevalence, pathogenesis and immune control of pathogenic porcine viruses by treatment with Enterococcus faecium NCIMB 10415 or zinc”,

Part-project A 5 in association with special research topic 852. Principle investigator: Prof. Michael F. G. Schmidt (together with Prof. N. Osterrieder, Virology, WE 05)


  • “The effect of dietary supplementation of Enterococcus faecium NCIMB 10415 and zinc on signal gene regulation in the immune response of mesentiric lymph noder in piglets”,

Teilprojekt Part-project B 3 with special research topic 852. Principle investigator: Prof. G. Brockmann together with Prof. Michael F. G. Schmidt