Over the course of an infection, pathogens not only invade cells but also their existing cellular compartments. During their life cycle, pathogens modulate these compartments and establish new ones. These compartments serve as reaction areas that protect the pathogen the host’s defenses. Compartments can either be localised as membrane-bound or non-membrane bound (e.g. phase-separated). A deeper understanding of the nature, function and dynamics of these compartments is seen as the key to the development of new effective anti-infectives. Typically, the complexity of the compartment prevents its biochemical isolation, or destroys its integrity and removes the relevant cellular context. For a functional characterisation of this process, in-situ approaches in combination with the integration of data sets from different approaches are essential.
The Leibniz-ScienceCampus InterACt develops and uses interdisciplinary approaches combining, among other things, native in-situ imaging and structural systems biology. This makes it possible to analyse and describe the dynamics and structure of native compartments of medically relevant viruses, bacteria and parasites. To achieve this goal, InterACt combines and strengthens the unique competence of three local Leibniz institutes in infection research (BNITM, FZB and HPI) with complementary expertise in structural biology, biophysics, chemistry and computer science at Universität Hamburg. InterACt makes use of the excellent infrastructures at its location, as well as the imaging infrastructures at the Centre for Structural Systems Biology and the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging.
New research groups in computer-aided infection biology have already been recruited for InterACt. These groups bring complementary expertise to record / generate complex imaging data sets, analyse them and integrate them with corresponding data on compartment composition and their physico-chemical properties. InterACt is an important strategic initiative to further integrate infection research and structural biology - two of the five research priorities of the Universität Hamburg. In the medium term, InterACt will strengthen the interdisciplinary infection research networks between the Universität Hamburg and the Leibniz institutions as well as other non-university research organisations in the Hamburg metropolitan region, including DESY, EMBL and European XFEL.