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Saskia ErttmannStaff scientist (tjänstledig) vid Institutionen för molekylärbiologiEnhet: Grupp Saskia ErttmannForskarassistent vid Institutionen för molekylärbiologiEnhet: Grupp Saskia Erttmann

Image: Mattias Pettersson

Saskia Erttmann Lab

Research group Unraveling the molecular mechanisms during the microbial-driven onset and resolution of inflammation

The immune system is the body's natural defence system that protects against invading germs and prevents disease development. For its optimal function the immune system must recognize a wide variety of damaging agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites but also other harmful substances from the environment.

Our immune system is divided into two main subsystems, the innate the adaptive immunity. Throughout the first hours and days of exposure to microbes the innate immunity is the key branch of the immune system that contends against pathogens. It restricts and eliminates infections or other initial causes of cell injury by inducing and resolving inflammation. Tight regulation of the innate immunity is essential to ensure an efficient defence against invading pathogens and to control inflammatory processes.

Imbalances in activation or resolution of inflammatory processes might have dramatic outcomes by driving the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases but also cancer development. To date, there are no potent therapeutic strategies available to cure these disorders and further research is required to understand innate immune regulatory mechanisms driving disease development.

My research aims to understand the regulation of pattern recognition receptors – a hallmark of the innate immunity. These receptors recognize microbial compounds or molecules that are released from damaged tissue. Receptor activation triggers an induction of inflammatory mediators, which orchestrate the destruction of invasive microbes.

Among the key inflammatory processes activated upon infection is the formation of a multi-protein complex called inflammasome. Inflammasomes play a vital role in the secretion of particular inflammatory mediators such as members of the interleucin-1 family that help to recruit immune cells to sites of infection and inflammation. If dysregulated, inflammasomes often contribute to the development of inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis and reduced pathogen clearance with dramatic outcomes showing the importance of the in-depth analysis of these regulatory mechanisms.

My research group is focusing on the identification of new molecules in innate immunity - in particular inflammasome regulation. Using state-of-the-art tools in cell and molecular biology and genetics we aim to uncover new key players in inflammasome regulation and to identify the underlying molecular mechanisms by which these molecules modulate innate immunity during infection and inflammation. We are interested in gaining knowledge of basic molecular mechanisms that might be dysregulated during disease progression. In addition, by applying different in vivo models of infection and inflammation, our research will extend the present knowledge of the physiological relevance of these newly identified molecules. Together, this will provide new target molecules for therapeutic treatments of infectious and inflammation-driven diseases.

In addition, in collaboration with a team at Kiel University, Germany from the Infection Oncology Unit at the University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein, we are working on mechanistic insights how different bacterial infections modulate the inflammatory states of the host and how changes in the inflammatory response might contribute to the development of metaplasia and cancer.

If you are interested in joining the team as an undergraduate student or post-doc, please send a short letter of motivation and your CV to saskia.erttmann@umu.se


Group members and contact information

Saskia Erttmann, PhD
Assistant Professor
e-mail: saskia.erttmann@umu.se

Lingyu Li, PhD
Postdoctoral fellow since 2021/04
e-mail: li.lingyu@umu.se


Former group members

Lucía Pérez Jiménez (Bachelor student)
Bachelor thesis from 2019/01 - 2019/06

Amanda Pereira de Freitas, PhD
Postdoctoral fellow from 2019/10 - 2020/09

Shiva Kalantari, PhD
Postdoctoral fellow from 2019/10 - 2021/04

Preeti Moar, PhD
Postdoctoral fellow from 2021/04 – 2022/09

Lucas Riedel, Master's student (University of Bielefeld, Germany)             Project in Molecular Biology from 2020/08 - 2021/01.                              Master thesis from 2021/04 - 2021/12

Pauline Evain, Bachelor student                                                            Project in Molecular Biology from 2023/08 - 2023/11

Yulia Shavva, Bachelor student.                                                        Bachelor thesis title from 2023/03 - 2023/06

Nicole Lehnart, Bachelor student (University of Mainz, Germany)         Bachelor thesis from 2023/01 - 2023/06

Kim Ulbrich; Master’s student (Würzburg University, Germany).          Advanced Project in Molecular Biology from 2022/03 – 2022/06

Marie Seufert, Apprentice to Biological Laboratory Technician (University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany) Trainee from 2021/06 – 2021/11

Selected publications

Lopez Chiloeches M, A. Bergonzini, O.C.B. Martin, N. Bergstein, S.F. Erttmann, K.M. Aung, N.O. Gekara, J.F. Avila Cariño, I.S. Pateras, and T. Frisan. Genotoxin-producing Salmonella enterica induces tissue-specific types of DNA damage and DNA damage response outcomes. Front Immunol. 14:1270449. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2023.1270449. 2024.

Erttmann S.F., P. Swacha, K. Min Aung, B. Brindefalk, H. Jiang, A. Härtlova, B.E. Uhlin, S.N. Wai and N.O. Gekara. The gut microbiota primes systemic antiviral immunity via the cGAS-STING-IFN-I axis. Immunity. 55(5):847-861.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2022.04.006. 2022.

Nilsson, J., M. Hörnberg, A. Schmidt‑Christensen, K. Linde, M. Nilsson,M. Carlus, S.F. Erttmann, S. Mayans and D. Holmberg. NKT cells promote both type 1 and type 2 inflammatory responses in a mouse model of liver fibrosis. Scientific Reports. 10:21778. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78688-2. 2020.

Erttmann S.F. and N.O. Gekara. Hydrogen peroxide release by bacteria suppresses inflammasome-dependent innate immunity. Nature Communications. 10 (1), 1-13. 2019.

Erttmann S.F., A. Härtlova, M. Sloniecka, A. Hosseinzadeh, R. Rofougaran, F.A.M. Raffi, U. Resch, T. Edgren, M. Fällman, T. Ek and N.O. Gekara. Loss of the DNA damage repair kinase ATM impairs inflammasome dependent anti-bacterial innate immunity via oxidative stress. Immunity. 45(1):106–118. 2016.

Wang H., K. Avican, A. Fahlgren, S.F. Erttmann, A.M. Nuss, P. Dersch, M. Fällman, T. Edgren and H. Wolf-Watz. Increased plasmid copy-number is essential for Yersinia T3SS function and virulence. Science. 253(6298):492-495. 2016.

Härtlova A., S.F. Erttmann, F.A. Raffi, A.M. Schmalz, U. Resch, S. Anugula, S. Lienenklaus, L. M. Nilsson, A. Kröger, J. A. Nilsson, T: Ek, S. Weiss and N.O. Gekara. 2015. DNA damage primes the type I interferon system via the cytosolic DNA sensor STING to promote anti-microbial innate immunity. Immunity. 42(2):332-343. 2015.


Head of research

Saskia Erttmann
Staff scientist (on leave), assistant professor


Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Molecular Biology

Research area

Infection biology, Molecular biology and genetics, Molecular medicine
  • Members

    Lingyu Li
    Postdoctoral position, staff scientist

    External group members

    Nicole Lehnart, Bachelor student

    Yulia Shavva, bachelor student

The gut microbiota protects against viral infections by keeping the immune system alert

Researchers from Umeå, Stockholm and Gothenburg universities publish new findings in the journal Immunity.

Bacteria in pneumonia attack using bleaching agent

Bacteria use the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide to weaken the immune system and cause pneumonia.

Latest update: 2024-03-22