Research in our department is focused on various aspects of vascular cell biology and concentrates mainly on the molecular basis of the interactions of leukocytes with the vascular system, which control leukocyte migration and extravasation as the basis for inflammatory reactions and lymphocyte surveillance of the organism. In addition, we work on novel molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of the vascular system.

A major goal of our studies is to reveal the mechanisms by which endothelial cells control leukocyte extravasation. Mechanisms believed to be essential in this process are tested in transgenic mice that are mutated on the basis of our in vitro studies of the molecular principles. We have been analyzing for many years the molecular components that control and mediate the docking and adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelium. Today a major focus of our work is aiming at the question how leukocytes actually move through the barrier of the blood vessel wall (diapedesis). According to our present working hypothesis leukocytes trigger active intracellular processes in endothelial cells that lead to a controlled opening of the endothelial cell contacts. In addition, we believe that the interaction between leukocytes and endothelial cells triggers events that help leukocytes to overcome the basement membrane.

The regulation of endothelial junctions is also studied in our department in the context of other processes. Various pathological stimuli induce vascular permeability by destabilizing endothelial junctions and this is a major cause of death in sepsis patients. The formation and plasticity of endothelial junctions is also an important aspect in angiogenesis and blood vessel remodeling during embryonic development. Adhesion and signaling mechanisms that modulate junctional integrity of endothelial cells in the context of these processes is a major focus of the lab.

Key words:
Leukocyte-Endothelial-Interactions, Inflammation, Cell Adhesion, Selectins, Integrins, Cadherins, Catenins, Receptor-Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases

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