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Centrum für Chronische Immundefizienz - CCI

Research Group "Molecular regulation of B-cell development"

Prof. Dr. Hermann Eibel

Research focus

Development and homeostasis of human B cells.

Current Projects

BAFF-regulated B cell survival and differentiation

B precursor cells develop in the bone marrow into IgM-positive immature B cells. These cells then migrate through the blood stream into the spleen where they differentiate into follicular and marginal zone B cells (Figure 1).

Figure 1. A. Expression of BAFFR. TACI and BCMA in B cell development.
Critical developmental steps depending on BAFF and APRIL- induced signals are shown by the presence of the respective ligand. B. Immunofluorescence of human spleen showing a large germinal center surrounded by follicular and marginal zone B cells. (from Front. Immunol., 08 October 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02285)

During this last step of B cell development, these cells receive pro-survival signals through the TNF-like cytokine BAFF (B cell activation factor of the TNF-family), which binds to its receptor termed BAFFR. BAFF-BAFFR binding increases the metabolic fitness of the cells by enhancing protein synthesis and mitochondrial activity. BAFF can also bind to a related receptor termed TACI, which is expressed by marginal zone B cells and class-switched memory B cells. In addition to BAFF; TACI can also bind another BAFF-like ligand, which is called APRIL. Activation of TACI enhances immunoglobulin-class switch and the formation of plasma cells in T-independent immune responses (Figure 2). It also acts as decoy receptor for BAFF and APRIL thereby limiting the bioavailability of both ligands.

Figure 2. BAFF and BAFF receptors.
BAFF binds to BAFFR, TACI and BCMA while APRIl only binds TACI and BCMA. BAFFR is expressed by all B cell subpopulations except plasma cells, TACI by marginal zone B cells, switche memory B cells and plasma cells, and BCMA by plasma cells. All three receptors regulate the survival of the different subpopulations.

We are investigating in the interactions between BAFFR, TACI and other proteins expressed by B cells as well as in the different intracellular signaling pathways and physiological responses which are regulated by BAFF binding to BAFFR and TACI. To this end, we have established in vitro assay and differentiation systems for human B cells, gene transfer and gene targeting approaches as well as various ways to study protein functions and interactions including FRET, immunoprecipitations, live microscopy and flow cytometry.

Funding and Collaborations

We are funded by the DFG within the comprehensive research center TRR130 "B cells in immunity and autoimmunity" which combines 25 research groups from Erlangen, Ulm Freiburg, Göttingen and Berlin. We are also funded by the e-rare program together with research groups from Milano, Paris, Ghent and Dresden within the project "EDSCIDPROG".



A list of publications can be found on PubMed:



Name E-Mail Phone

Group Leader
Prof. Dr. Hermann Eibel hermann.eibel@uniklinik-freiburg.de

Fax: 270-77753

Dr. Eirini Sevdali eirini.sevdali@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77729

PhD Students
Violeta Block violeta.block@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77755

MSc Students
Malte Burek malte.burek@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77726
Yannic Heitz yannic.heitz@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77726
Leonie Weckwerth leonie.weckwerth@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77751

MD Students
Luyao Zhang luyao.zhang@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77729

Beate Fischer beate.fischer@uniklinik-freiburg.de 270-77755

CV Hermann Eibel

since 2008 Group leader within the CCI
since 2000 Habilitation in Molecular Immunology at the Faculty of Biology, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg
since 1992 Head of Clinical Research Unit for Rheumatology, University Medical Center Freiburg, Dept. of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology
1985-1992 Group Leader, Max-Planck-Institute for Immunobiology, Freiburg, Department of  Prof. Georges Köhler (PhD)
1983-1985 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Institute for Biology
1979-1982 Ph.D. Thesis Student, Biocenter, University of Basel, Switzerland
1974-1979 Diploma in Biology II, Biocenter, University of Basel, Switzerland

Prof. Dr. phil. nat. Hermann Eibel

Center for Chronic Immunodeficiency
at Center for Translational Cell Research

Breisacher Str. 115
79106 Freiburg

Phone: +49 (0)761 270-77752
Fax: +49 (0)761 270-77753