Type I interferons (IFNs) are key effectors in the antiviral innate immune response that can be produced upon recognition of viral nucleic acids by cytosolic pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Such PRRs include the RIG-I like receptors (RLRs), which function as RNA sensors by recognizing features common in viral RNA and triggering a type I IFN response. However, nucleic acids are found throughout all life forms making the discrimination between viral and self RNA a challenge. Self-derived RNAs are capable of activating RLRs in certain circumstances, leading to an IFN-driven sterile inflammatory response. Indeed, type I IFNs can be produced in virus-free settings such as the tumor microenvironment, which raises questions related to the regulation of the RLR pathway in this context. In light of this, my PhD research aims to provide insight into the molecular mechanisms governing RNA sensing and sterile type I IFN production by identifying novel regulators that inhibit these pathways as well as explore their impact on anti-tumor immunity.
After obtaining my Bachelor in Biology at Universidad de las Americas Puebla, Mexico, I started the Master’s program Molecular Mechanisms of Disease at Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. During my Master’s I completed an internship in the group of Prof. Carl Figdor at the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, where I focused on designing injectable hyaluronic acid cryogels capable of synthetic T cell activation as a strategy for cancer immunotherapy. I completed a second internship at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology at the University of Glasgow (UK) in the group of Prof. Rick Maizels, where I investigated the effect of the excretory-secretory protein products of the helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus in macrophage activation. After obtaining my Master’s degree in 2019, I joined the group of Dr. Annemarthe van der Veen at the LUMC as a PhD student.
Self RNA sensing by RIG-I-like receptors in viral infection and sterile inflammation.
Stok J.E., Vega Quiroz M.E., Van der Veen A.G.
J. Immunol. 205:883-891, 2020.