Given that our body is constantly exposed to a vast array of microorganisms, we have developed very sophisticated defense mechanisms that ensure our protection. To this end, the innate immune system is an ancient, highly conserved, and very complex system that protects organisms across all domains of life from infection. However, this essential system is hijacked by successful microbial pathogens, such as Francisella tularensis, the agent of tularemia, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the agent of tuberculosis, and the AIDS virus HIV, which can lead to fatal outcomes for their hosts. Therefore, to determine what specific immune processes are targeted by these pathogens, we must first understand the intricacies of the innate immune system. Specifically, inflammasomes are intracellular multi-protein complexes that play a major role in host immunity against microbial pathogens. Inflammasomes detect the presence of microbial patterns, which induce both a regulated form of necrosis, called pyroptosis, and the release of soluble pro-inflammatory mediators, namely interleukin (IL)-1β/IL-18. However, recent findings from the Meunier lab suggest that the importance of inflammasome-related components is more complex than first anticipated and must involve additional players and novel immune pathways. The overall aim of this project is to go beyond the canonical roles of inflammasomes in the defense against infections, by investigating the not yet discovered immune functions of novel inflammasome-derived components.
Etienne Meunier heads up the Immune Detection and Elimination of Pathogens Laboratory at IPBS. "I am most honoured to have received such a prestigious grant to support my research at the IPBS, and I am very happy that the fundamental immunology and cell biology work that we do in my lab has been selected by ERC", Etienne said.
"ERC grants are among the most prestigious awards in the world. The IPBS is extremely proud of having most talented and promising young researchers, like Etienne", said Jean-Philippe Girard, Director of the IPBS.