Michaela Gack


  • Professor, Department of Microbiology, and the Committee on Microbiology


Ph.D. Harvard Medical School and FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, 2008
B.S. Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, 2002

Contact Information

The University of Chicago
920 E. 58th Street
Cummings Life Science Center, 713A
Chicago, IL 60637

hone: (773) 834-5272

Lab website: https://gacklab.uchicago.edu/

Research Summary

Innate immune sensing mechanisms and viral evasion

The central research focus of my laboratory is to understand the regulatory mechanisms of innate immune signaling by host and viral proteins, with the ultimate goal of defining how the intricate interplay between viruses and the host's surveillance machinery impacts the outcome of viral infection and disease. The early detection of viral pathogens by the host depends on a limited number of specific receptors that sense nucleic acids or other conserved viral patterns and subsequently activate signaling cascades that result in interferon (IFN)-mediated defense mechanisms. RIG-I and MDA5, members of the RIG-I-like receptor (RLR) family, have emerged as key cytosolic sensors for the detection of various RNA viruses, including paramyxoviruses, influenza virus, dengue virus, and picornaviruses.

In the past few years, my laboratory has made several important discoveries that defined a novel concept of RLR regulation, characterized by a dynamic balance of Lys63-linked ubiquitination and phosphorylation/dephosphorylation. Furthermore, we have identified several host factors that are required for RLR activation and an effective antiviral response. Another area of my research focuses on the detailed mechanisms by which viral proteins antagonize the host innate immune response, and on the understanding of their roles in viral life cycle and pathogenesis. Specifically, our goal is to identify the strategies employed by viruses to modulate RLR signaling for immune evasion. To achieve this, my laboratory uses a unique experimental system that combines proteomics with molecular, biochemical, cell biological and virological assays.