Institute of Virology

Work Group "Morphogenesis, Pathogenesis and Therapy in Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) Infection"

Head: Thomas Mertens

Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a member of the Herpes virus family, is a highly significant and threatening pathogen for individuals with an immature or compromised immune system (e.g. transplant recipients, intrauterine children, preterm babies, AIDS patients). Serious infections can occur following primary infection or reactivation of a lifelong latent infection. Our group characterizes HCMV genes and their gene products with respect to viral morphogenesis, pathogenesis, antiviral therapy and resistance.

We therefore investigate the consequences of viral infection for the host cells and the interaction of viral and cellular proteins as well as the impact of HCMV infection on the immune functions of monocytes and macrophages.


Localization of viral proteins (red and green) in HCMV-infected cells (cell nucleus - blue)

In cooperation with the Central Unit of Electron Microscopy, we are investigating intracellular viral transport and egress mechanisms by focusing on the interactions of HCMV tegument proteins with cellular proteins. The scope is also to clarify what cellular machineries are hijacked by the virus and if new targets for antiviral intervention can be characterized. Another focus of our work concentrates on the pathomechanism of HCMV in vasculopathies. In cooperation with the Department of Pharmacology, we are investigating the molecular biology and function of the HCMV encoded G-protein-coupled receptor homologues.

The impact of antiviral therapy and viral resistance is constantly increasing. We are analyzing two genes, UL97 and UL54, known to be responsible for HCMV antiviral resistance with regard to their biological function.

We are also compiling a database for the correlation of resistant pheno- and genotypes in collaboration with the Department of Neuroinformatics. This database is the first for HCMV and, having been made available on the internet, it is currently being used worldwide.

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