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The objective of this research was to analyse the interaction of Rift Valley Fever virus (RVFV) with the human innate immunity.
In recent work it was shown that the RVFV protein NSs, a non-structural protein, has an inhibitory effect on the interferon response of the innate immune system by blocking the interferon- (IFN-) promoter .
To assess the natural variability of the NSs activity the immune modulatory effects of twenty-six wild type RVFV strains isolated throughout Africa were characterized using molecular biological tools.
The diversity of these strains was also assessed by sequencing the NSs genes and by looking at their polymerisation activity in the nucleus of Vero E6 cells.It was revealed that RVFV NSs-R7 contains an additional mutation at position 344 (T to C), which leads to the replacement of leucine by proline.
This mutation seems to have a strong effect on the NSs function since NSs-R7 no longer inhibits activation of the IFN-β promoter and does not show filamentous structure formation in the nucleus of infected cells.
The results also merit to investigate the eligibility of strain R7 as a vaccine candidate.
2007-2010: University of Göttingen (Germany), Faculty of Biology: Degree: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Virology / Immunology, mention Honourable (magna cum lauda) October 26, 2010 for the defense and for the examination.
2003 - 2004: Institute of Tropical Medicine in Anwers (Belgium): Degree: Master of Science in Animal Health (disease control)
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