Fabio Martinon received his PhD in 2003 from the University of Lausanne for his work on the characterization of the Inflammasome in the laboratory of Jürg Tschopp. After a short post-doctoral fellowship in Jürg Tschopp’s laboratory, he moved in 2006 to the laboratory of Laurie Glimcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he investigated the link between inflammatory programs and the endoplasmic reticulum stress response. In August 2010 he joined the Department of Biochemistry as Assistant Professor. His current research focuses on the characterization of signaling pathways emerging from the endoplasmic reticulum.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) serves many general functions, including the facilitation of protein folding and the transport of synthesized proteins, but it also has an important role in sensing cellular stress. ER-stress identifies a group of signals that induce a transcriptional program enabling cells to survive protein overload and injury in the ER. This highly coordinated response involves three parallel signaling branches localized at the ER, namely IRE1, ATF6 and PERK.
New findings suggest that these signaling pathways can initiate inflammation and, in specialized cells and tissues, may be involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and infectious diseases. However, this is an emerging field of research and little is known on the specific nature of these signaling pathways and their function in regulating immunity. We recently found that TLR4 and TLR2 specifically activate the ER-stress sensor kinase IRE1 and its downstream target, the transcription factor XBP1. Previously described XBP1 ER stress target genes are not induced by TLR signaling. Instead, TLR-activated XBP1 is required for optimal and sustained production of proinflammatory cytokines in macrophages. Consistent with this finding, IRE1 activation by ER-stress synergizes with TLR activation for cytokine production. Moreover, XBP1 deficiency markedly increases bacterial burden in animals infected with the TLR2-activating human pathogen Francisella tularensis.
These findings uncovered an unsuspected critical new function for the XBP1 transcription factor in mammalian host defenses. The knowledge gained from these studies will provide a better understanding of regulatory pathways controlling immune responses and will aid in the development of therapies aimed at improving the outcome of diseases characterized by inflammation and ER-stress.
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