prof. Jonathan Maelfait (PhD)

CRIG member
Jonathan Maelfait

Principal investigator – VIB-UGent Inflammation Research Center, Technologiepark 71, 9052 Zwijnaarde, Belgium

Research focus

Our lab studies the interplay between viruses and the immune system. Our research contributes to the development of better vaccines and aims to understand the molecular basis of autoimmune disease.
Viruses are obligate intracellular pathogens and in order to replicate they need to deliver their RNA and DNA genomes inside the host cell. The cells that make up our body contain sensory molecules called nucleic acid receptors which detect virally derived nucleic acids. Different types of nucleic acid receptors activate distinct antiviral defence mechanisms which cooperate to clear the viral pathogen. Some receptors respond to infection by releasing antiviral molecules, which alert surrounding cells of the ensuing viral attack. Others instruct the infected cell to commit suicide thereby preventing viral dissemination.
Our research focuses on the identification of the precise molecular signatures that activate nucleic acid receptors and how viruses fight back by blocking the molecular signalling pathways that are activated upon infection.
In another aspect of our research we try to understand how nucleic acid receptors specifically recognise viral nucleic acids and avoid contact with cellular RNA and DNA. Healthy uninfected cells are packed with endogenous RNA and DNA molecules which are important for normal cell function. Unwanted detection of these nucleic acids can result in detrimental immune responses, including the development of autoimmunity.

Key publications

  • 'ADAR1 prevents autoinflammation by suppressing spontaneous ZBP1 activation'. Nature 607, 784-789 (2022)
  • 'ADAR1 interaction with Z-RNA promotes editing of endogenous double-stranded RNA and prevents MDA5-dependent immune activation'. Cell Rep 36, 109500 (2021)
  • 'Sensing of endogenous nucleic acids by ZBP1 induces keratinocyte necroptosis and skin inflammation'. J Exp Med 217, e20191913 (2020)
  • 'Sensing of viral and endogenous RNA by ZBP1/DAI induces necroptosis'. EMBO J 36, 2529-2543 (2017) 
  • ‘Restriction by SAMHD1 Limits cGAS/STING-Dependent Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses to HIV-1’. Cell Reports, 2016 (PMID: 27477283)
  • ‘SAMHD1 is mutated recurrently in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and is involved in response to DNA damage’. Blood, 2014. (PMID: 24335234)
  • ‘SAMHD1-dependent retroviral control and escape in mice’. EMBO Journal, 2013 (PMID: 23872947)

Contact & links

  • Lab address: VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research; Fiers-Schell-Van Montagu building; Technologiepark-Zwijnaarde 71; B-9052 Ghent; Belgium
  • Vandenabeele lab  
  • Maelfait team
  • Jonathan Maelfait is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks