Perinatal programming of the Immune system

Responsible: Prof. Dr. med. Claude P. Muller

Perinatal programming refers to the concept that foetal or early postnatal environmental factors have a considerable long-term impact on adult phenotype and disease susceptibility. DNA methylation plays a role integrating this environment with the long term expression patters of certain genes. When occurring in immune response genes, these changes influence adult susceptibility to infections and the establishment of sensitivity thresholds of immune functions that will persist throughout most of adult life. While the role of DNA methylation in regulation of several immune response genes has been established, it is currently not known whether methylation patterns are influenced by early-life immune challenges. To address this question, we are interested in the role of DNA methylation patterns established during early-life programming of the immune system in response to infectious and other immune challenges. This project aims to demonstrate that infections in early-life have an impact on functions of the immune system by (de)regulation of epigenetic DNA modifications of immune response genes.