Endogenous retroviruses and retroid elements in
The group is interested in retro-elements and, more particularly, in infectious and endogenous human retroviruses. We have identified a highly-conserved domain on the envelope proteins of these elements, which possess immunosuppressive properties and play an essential role in:
- the ability of retroviruses to invade their hosts,
- the ability of tumour cells to evade the anti-tumour immune response, and
- the formation of the materno-foetal barrier in the mammalian placenta.
This research is at the junction of virology, oncology, immunology and development. It facilitates the exploration of new approaches to vaccination and therapeutic interventions, recognising the properties of the domains which have been identified.
The year 2009 was marked by the identification of the immuno-suppressor domain carried by the oncogenic murine (MLV) and human (HTLV, XMRV) retroviruses and of specific mutations which increase very significantly the immunogenicity of viral antigens. This opens the way to novel approaches to vaccination. The role of envelope proteins of the endogenous retroviruses in placentation has also been demonstrated unambiguously thanks to the development of a knock-out mouse for these genes.
- Characterisation at molecular and cellular levels of the mechanisms of immunosuppression of the infectious and endogenous human retroviruses.
- Effects of the immunosuppressive property on:
- the viral load of pathogenic human retroviruses (HTLV, XMRV, HIV),
- tumour progression and escape from the anti-tumour immune response (melanoma, prostate cancer and breast cancer as models),
- placentation and materno-foetal tolerance (man, knockout and knock-in mice, other mammals)
- Development of approaches to vaccination and therapeutic interventions directed against these domains.