University of California, San Diego



The immune system is responsible for the tremendous task of fighting a wide range of pathogens to which we are constantly exposed. This system can be broadly subdivided into innate and adaptive arms, which act in conjunction to protect the host. The innate immune system exists in both vertebrate and invertebrate organisms and represents the first barrier against microbial invasion. This arm of the immune system rapidly eliminates the vast majority of microorganisms that we daily encounter and is responsible for limiting early pathogen replication and imprinting the profile of the subsequent adaptive response. The adaptive immune response is a more sophisticated feature, found only in vertebrate animals, involving a broad repertoire of genetically rearranged receptors that specifically recognize microbial antigens. The hallmark of the adaptive response is the generation of a potent and long-lasting protection specifically directed against the invading pathogen. Despite highly evolved immune responses, pathogens have co-evolved ways to evade or subvert the immune system and favor their replication and transmission. Therefore, despite major scientific and medical efforts, infectious diseases remain among the leading causes of mortality and disability worldwide.

Our laboratory studies whole-organism, cellular and molecular aspects of immune responses during acute and chronic viral infections to determine general principles of antiviral immunity, immune-evasion, persistence and pathogenesis. The ultimate goal is to generate fundamental knowledge on immune-regulation that could help modulating immune responses to prevent or treat infectious diseases and may also have implications for other immune-related illnesses.

As such, we have contributed to uncovering many fundamental aspects of Interferons, Dendritic Cells and T cells that extended beyond viral infections and broadened our general understanding of immune-regulation. In addition, given that we often use murine infection with a prototypic mammarenavirus, as a model system, our laboratory has also contributed to understanding the pathogenesis of viral hemorrhagic fevers.

You can find out more about us by following us inTwitteror watching these seminars:

Elina Zuniga's seminar at National Institute of Health: Type I interferon induction and exhaustion upon viral infection

Elina Zuniga's Global Immunotalk: Adapting to a viral infection