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The evolutionarily conserved mechanisms and innovations


The team is interested in the mechanisms of innate antiviral immunity in insects. It also includes a group exploring defenses against oncogenic cells.

A key element of antiviral immunity is the distinction between “self” and “non-self” elements. This distinction can be made through the detection of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), a common sign of viral infection, by cytosolic RNA helicases or cGAS-related receptors. One of the team’s objectives is to exploit the advantages of the Drosophila model organism to better understand these two evolutionarily conserved antiviral pathways and reveal still hidden aspects of their regulation in mammals.

A second objective is to characterize the genes regulated by the cGAS/STING pathway in insects. With over a million known species, i.e. 60% of all animal species, insects represent an untapped resource of antiviral genes. Their identification and study could reveal soft spots in the replication cycle of medically relevant viruses and inspire innovative antiviral therapies.

A third axis of the team, led by Jules Hoffmann, is to characterize immune defenses against cancer cells in Drosophila.

Involved in several international collaborations, the team also has a branch within the Sino-French Hoffmann Institute for Immunology at the Guangzhou Medical University in China, where J. Hoffmann and J.-L. Imler are visiting professors.

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