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Scientific Background

The immune system is a highly differentiated and flexible defense system which ensures the integrity of an organism. It protects against pathogenic microorganisms and malignant degeneracy. As these processes can occur anywhere within a body the immune system is mainly organized as mobile cellular network. As a consequence individual cells have to communicate one with another and individual cells have to integrate information about the invading pathogen or a tumor cell in order to develop an appropriate response. Recognition of foreign and dangerous compounds is mediated by specific receptors including the T- and B-cell receptor and pattern recognition receptors. Each of these receptors triggers a signal cascade that finally results in the induction of an appropriate gene expression program. Whereas so far these signaling cascades have mainly been viewed as independent modules it nowadays turns out that immune cells have developed complex interrelated mechanisms of signal processing and signal integration. Signaling modules are interconnected and used by different cells in a partly redundant way. This graduate school aims to identify connections between different signaling modules in various cells of the immune system.

We hypothesize that signal transduction cascades are highly interconnected and cannot be viewed as isolated modules.