Molecular Signal Transduction

    It is a prerequisite for all cells to operate synergistically to guarantee that each cell of an organism arises at the appropriate time, finds its proper place, and correctly performs all its assigned tasks. Accordingly, the communication between cells is the basis for the proper function of the human organism. Therefore, the function of an organism relies on the capability of a cell to generate and to receive signals and to transduce various signals into appropriate responses. Accordingly, diseases can be viewed as perturbed signal transduction in various tissues and organs. This principle applies not only to rare diseases, which are caused by single point mutations, but also to more widespread diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, atherosclerosis, or chronic inflammatory diseases. Therefore, an understanding of the molecular physiology of cellular signal transduction is an essential prerequisite for the perception of pathological alterations therein that are associated with certain malfunctions. A further consequence of this knowledge is the possibility to specifically interfere with the disordered signal transduction. In accordance with this principle, most pharmacotherapeutic agents exert their actions by interfering with certain molecules of signal transduction cascades, such as hormone receptors and associated second messengers.

    Studying paradigmatic signal transduction cascades provides intellectual and technical skills that can be employed in highly divergent areas, since even in highly heterogeneous cells fundamental mechanisms often operate in an analogous manner. For instance, the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin plays a role in the regulation of food intake and immune responses, which is achieved by interference with the communication between hypothalamic neurons, on the one hand, and between lymphocytes and macrophages, on the other hand. Cytokines of the interleukin-1 family are not only key regulators of immune reactions and inflammation, but control neurotransmission and mediate pro- as well as antiatherogenic effects. Toll-like receptors are involved in innate and adaptive immune responses, in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, and in brain inflammation. The thesis program \"Molecular Signal Transduction\" is not intended to focus on one type of signalling, such as synaptic transmission, interleukin signalling, or angiogenesis, but rather provides examples stemming from several organ systems. Therefore, graduates of this program will be trained to apply their conceptual expertise not only within the predefined themes of their own theses, but also in topics that appear a priori unrelated.

    An additional aim of the program is the education of scientists who can contribute to clinical, clinic-related (\"translational science\"), as well as basic scientific work. They will be able to independently conceptualize and perform their own projects. To achieve this goal, diversified themes and a large variety of experimental techniques are offered within this program (see “supervisor profiles” provided by the principal investigators). Therefore, the graduates should be able to establish themselves in various fields (e.g. academic and industrial laboratories, pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies, production, distribution and sales of scientific instruments).