Dr. Hedda Wardemann
- Max-Planck-Institut für Infektionsbiologie, Berlin
- Natural sciences, mathematics and statistics
Biological and related sciences
Area of specialisation
Immunology, B cells, antibodies, humoral memory
The adaptive immune system is characterized by the diversity of its antigen-receptors and the formation of memory. Two random mechanisms generate B cell antigen-receptor diversity. Somatic immunoglobulin (Ig) gene recombination assembles functional Ig genes from a large number of germline encoded small Ig gene segments during the early stages of B cell development in bone marrow. The second mechanism is somatic mutations of functionally rearranged Ig genes in B cells, which have been activated by antigen in the presence of T cell help. The random nature of the two processes generates antibodies against a plethora of diverse pathogens, but the downside is the production of potentially harmful autoantibodies and antibodies directed against non-pathogenic foreign antigens or microbes. Thus, constant shaping of the antibody repertoire by positive and negative selection during B cell development and differentiation is essential to allow the generation of highly efficient and specific humoral immune responses to invading pathogens while maintaining tolerance to self and non-pathogenic foreign microbes, e.g. commensal bacteria in the gut. The overall goal of our research is to establish how antibody diversity is shaped by self- and foreign antigen-driven selection in health and disease.
To measure the diversity of the antibody repertoire we have previously developed a strategy that allows the efficient cloning and expression of antibodies from single isolated human or murine B cells. Fluorescent activated cell sorting is used to isolate single cells belonging to defined B cell subpopulations. Further, the strategy allows the isolation of antigen-specific cells if fluorescently labelled antigen is used in the sorting strategy. Research in our group is focused around this technology. The monoclonal antibodies that are generated are fully human and may have diagnostic and therapeutic potential.
- Management position, Professorship
2001: B cell development and function in the absence of the spleen