Jun Prof. Daniel Sauter, group leader

Tel: +49 (0)731 500 65169

Fax: +49 (0)731 50065153

Daniel Sauter studied Molecular Medicine at the University of Freiburg, Germany and graduated in Microbiology, Immunology and Virology. During his diploma thesis in the lab of Prof. Hildt at the University Hospital in Freiburg, he investigated the processing of the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) nonstructural protein NS5A and its influence on HCV replication. In 2008, Daniel joined the group of Prof. Kirchhoff at the Institute of Molecular Virology in Ulm, where he received his PhD in 2011. During his PhD thesis, Daniel focused on the evolution of pandemic and non-pandemic HIV-1 strains and their adaptation to humans. He was especially interested in the counteraction of the cellular restriction factor tetherin/BST-2 by different primate lentiviruses. His PhD thesis was awarded with the PhD Prizes of the University Society of Ulm and the Paul-Ehrlich Society for Chemotherapy. During subsequent postdoctoral studies in Prof. Kirchhoff’s lab, he continued his research on the antagonization of tetherin by primate lentiviruses. In 2014, Daniel Sauter was appointed as a junior professor for molecular virology. His current research focuses on the role of tetherin in zoonotic viral transmissions and the transcriptional regulation of antiviral and proinflammatory factors by the lentiviral accessory proteins Vpu, Vpr and Nef.

Elena Heusinger, PhD student. 

Tel: +49 (0)731 50065165

Elena joined our lab in October 2015. Her research focuses on the coevolution of the cellular restriction factor tetherin with HIV-2 and Influenza A viruses (IAV). She has recently shown that tetherin evolved at least 450 million years ago and is more widespread among vertebrates than previously thought (Heusinger et al., 2015). Her finding that not only mammals, but also birds express anti-virally active tetherin may help to understand the factors that determine successful spread of avian influenza A viruses and other bird viruses in the human population. Elena’s work is supported by the junior professorship programme of the state Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.

Kristina Hopfensperger, Master student, PhD student

phone: +49 731 500 65165

In February 2017, Kristina finished her Master’s thesis in our lab. She analyzed the mechanisms underlying the down-modulation of MHC class I molecules in HIV-1 infected cells. Kristina will continue her work as a PhD student in April 2017.

Her work will be supported by the junior professorship programme of the state Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.

Simon Langer, PhD student

Tel: +49 (0)731 500 65165

Simon started his PhD studies in November 2013. His main research interest is the characterization of unusual fusion proteins of HIV-1 (Langer and Sauter, 2017). He demonstrated that a considerable fraction of primary HIV-1 isolates have the potential to encode a bipartite protein, in which the N-terminus of Rev is fused to Vpu. Due to alternative splicing, however, this fusion protein, called Rev1-Vpu, is expressed at much lower levels than regular Vpu. Notably, Rev1-Vpu does not seem to affect viral replication per se. We thus hypothesize that this fusion protein may have emerged as a phenotypically neutral polymorphism in the context of other adaptive mutations (Langer et al., 2015).

In a second project, Simon investigates the ability of the lentiviral accessory protein Vpu to suppress immune activation (Sauter et al., 2015). To this end, he has generated Vpu mutants that selectively fail to inhibit the activation of NF-κB. These mutants are currently analyzed in humanized mouse models and will help to elucidate the importance of this Vpu function for viral replication in vivo.

Simon is supported by the International Graduate School in Molecular Medicine Ulm (IGradU).

Elisabeth Reith, PhD student

phone: +49 731 500 65166

Elisabeth started her PhD studies in 2016. Her research focuses on the antiviral activities of guanylate binding proteins (GBPs). GBP5 has recently been shown to restrict HIV-1 by decreasing virion infectivity (Krapp et al., 2016). Elisabeth investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying the antiviral activity of GBP5. Furthermore, she analyzes whether other GBP paralogs also exert antiviral activity and whether the inhibitory activity is restricted to retroviruses. Finally, Elisabeth would like to understand the mechanisms that HIV-1 and related lentiviruses have evolved to evade restriction by GBP5.

In a second project, Elisabeth investigates how the lentiviral accessory proteins Vpu, Nef and Vpr interfere with the activation of NF-κB to enable efficient transcription of viral genes while minimizing the expression of antiviral and proinflammatory genes by the host.

Elisabeth is supported by the Priority Programme “Innate Sensing and Restriction of Retroviruses” (SPP 1923) of the German Research Foundation.

Susanne Engelhart, medical technical assistant

phone: +49 731 500 65166

Susanne (re)joined our lab in January 2017. In 2016, Susanne gained research experience at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. We are happy to welcome her back in Ulm as she has large expertise in a variety of immunological and cell biological methods.


Katja Deppe (Master’s thesis, Biology)

Lukas Klein (Master’s thesis, Biomedical Sciences)

Teresa Krabbe (Master’s thesis, Molecular Medicine)

Lan-Hui Lee (Guest scientist, Taipei, Taiwan)

Kathrin Starz (Master’s thesis, Biochemistry)

Yaxian Zhou (Master’s thesis, exchange program Nanjing, China)

Elena Sulis (Erasmus student, Cagliari, Italy)


Ms. Ingrid Wirth (am)

Tel +49731 50065151

Fax +49731 50065153

Ms. Kristina Wohllaib (pm)

Tel +49731 50065152

Fax +49731 50065153


Institute of Molecular Virology

Ulm University Hospital

Meyerhofstr. 1

89081, Ulm




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