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Research at the Division of Immunology

Pathogens hiding in immune cells have evolved multiple strategies to circumvent detection and to prevent elimination. To understand the underlying pathogen-host interactions, we study pathogen-containing compartments and their development in primary human immune cells. As models we work with obligate intracellular human pathogens Leishmania major and Chlamydia pneumoniae in combination with primary human innate immune target cells such as macrophages, dendritic cells and T cells. We found that pathogenic misuse of both apoptosis and autophagy mechanisms contributes to the establishment of productive infections.

We apply state of the art live cell imaging of compartment development and investigate host cell proteins involved in the dynamics of cellular defence. Combining this approach with electron microscopy analysis of the primary human host cell ultrastructure will enable us to understand how intracellular pathogens restrain an effective immune response. Genetic modification of primary human host cells finally allows us to investigate and manipulate susceptibility and resistance factors on a molecular level. Our ultimate goal is to identify cellular factors that actually are able to eliminate intracellular pathogens.

The group of Dr. Christian Schütz aims to develop functionalized artificial structures (FASt) to guide and modulate antigen-specific cytotoxic T cell responses for targeted immunotherapy in tumour and autoimmunity.

The lab of Dr. Jörg Kirberg aims to further elucidate the basic mechanisms of T cell homeostasis and to identify pathways specifically ruling T cell interclonal competitiveness.

Who we are

Research Team - Division of ImmunologySource: PEI

Katharina Arens (PhD Student)
Dr. Katrin Bagola (Scientist)
Dr. Simone Bernardino Potthast (Scientist)
Dr. Klaus Boller (Scientist and Head of Morphology Section)
Katja Döring (Secretary)
Regina Eberle (Technician, Morphology Section)
Christodoulos Filippis (PhD Student)
Melanie Grassl (Sorter Operator, Morphology Section, on maternity leave)
Dr. Anja Ulrich (Scientist on maternity leave)
Naphang Ho (Master Student)
Dr. Jörg Kirberg (Scientist, Morphology Section)
Dido Klemm (PhD Student)
Dorothea Kreuz (Technical Assistant, Morphology Section)
Ramona Mirke (Technical Assistant, Morphology Section)
Anna Morgenroth (Technical Assistant seconded to lab Dr. Bastian, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut)
Nils Nover (Bachelor Student)
Laura Roßmann (PhD Student)
Dr. Sven Sagasser (Scientist, Morphology Section)
Dr. Anna Schappert (Guest Scientist)
Stefan Schille (PhD Student)
Bianca Walber (Technical Assistant)
Prof. Dr. Ger van Zandbergen (Head of Division)


  1. Innate immunity in leishmaniasis (2010-2016), (DFG)
  2. Pathogen containing vacuoles (2011-2018), (DFG)

    Project "Innate immunity in leishmaniasis" / / "Pathogen containing vacuoles"Source: PEI

  3. Immune-modulatory potential of prototypic adjuvants (2015-2018), (BMG)
  4. Peripheral T cell homeostasis and its failure in disease (2013-2016), (DFG)

    Project "Peripheral T cell homeostasis and its failure in disease"Source: PEI

Publications Prof. Dr. Ger van Zandbergen

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