Christian Münz

University of Zurich, Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Publications (155)1241.07 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Patients with X-linked lymphoproliferative (XLP) disease due to deficiency in the adaptor molecule SAP are highly susceptible to one specific viral pathogen, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This susceptibility might result from impaired CD8(+) T cell and NK cell responses to EBV infection in these patients. We demonstrate that antibody blocking of the SAP-dependent 2B4 receptor is sufficient to induce XLP-like aggravation of EBV disease in mice with reconstituted human immune system components (HIS mice). CD8(+) T cells require 2B4 for EBV specific immune control, because 2B4 blockade after CD8(+) T cell depletion did not further aggravate symptoms of EBV infection. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail:
    The Journal of infectious diseases. 02/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Therapeutic natural killer (NK) cell-mediated alloreactivity towards acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has largely been attributed to mismatches between killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) on NK cells and their ligands, HLA class I molecules, on target cells. While adult acute B cell precursor leukemia (BCP-ALL) appears to be resistant to NK cell-mediated lysis, recent data indicate that pediatric BCP-ALL might yet be a target of NK cells. We here demonstrate in a donor-patient-specific NOD.Cg-Prkdc(scid) IL2rg(tmWjl)/Sz (NSG) xenotransplantation model that NK cells mediate considerable alloreactivity towards pediatric BCP-ALL in vivo. Notably, not only adoptively transferred mature, KIR(+) NK cells but also immature, KIR- NK cells arising early post transplantation in humanized NSG mice (huNSG) exerted substantial anti-leukemic activity. Low-dose and long-term treatment of huNSG mice with the DNA-demethylating agent 5-Aza-cytidine distinctly enhanced the anti-tumor response, interestingly without inducing common inhibitory KIR expression but rather by promoting the differentiation of various NK cell precursor subsets. Collectively, these data indicate that the future design of innovative therapy protocols should consider further exploitation of NK cell-mediated immune-responses for poor prognosis pediatric BCP-ALL patients.
    Blood 10/2014; · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Chronic viral infections and malignant tumours induce T cells that have a reduced ability to secrete effector cytokines and have upregulated expression of the inhibitory receptor PD1 (programmed cell death protein 1). These features have so far been considered to mark terminally differentiated 'exhausted' T cells. However, several recent clinical and experimental observations indicate that phenotypically exhausted T cells can still mediate a crucial level of pathogen or tumour control. In this Opinion article, we propose that the exhausted phenotype results from a differentiation process in which T cells stably adjust their effector capacity to the needs of chronic infection. We argue that this phenotype is optimized to cause minimal tissue damage while still mediating a critical level of pathogen control. In contrast to the presently held view of functional exhaustion, this new concept better reflects the pathophysiology and clinical manifestations of persisting infections, and it provides a rationale for emerging therapies that enhance T cell activity in chronic infection and cancer by blocking inhibitory receptors.
    Nature reviews. Immunology 09/2014; · 33.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A growing body of evidence suggests that the human natural killer (NK) cell compartment is phenotypically and functionally heterogeneous and composed of several differentiation stages. Moreover, NK cell subsets have recently been shown to exhibit adaptive immune features during herpesvirus infection in experimental mice and to preferentially expand during viral infections in humans. However, both phenotype and role of NK cells during acute symptomatic Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, termed infectious mononucleosis (IM), remain unclear. Here, we longitudinally assessed the kinetics, the differentiation and the proliferation of subsets of NK cells in pediatric IM patients. Our results indicate that acute IM is characterized by the preferential proliferation of early-differentiated CD56(dim) NKG2A(+) KIR(-) NK cells. Moreover, this NK cell subset exhibits features of terminal differentiation and persists at higher frequency over at least the first 6 months after acute IM. Finally, we demonstrate that this NK cell subset preferentially degranulates and proliferates upon exposure to EBV-infected B cells expressing lytic antigens. Thus, early-differentiated NK cells might play a key role in the immune control of primary infection with this persistent tumor-associated virus.
    Blood 09/2014; · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    Christian Münz
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    ABSTRACT: Innate immune responses are the first line of defense for an organism to restrict invading pathogens. They fulfill two main functions, namely detection of the pathogen to successively alarm the appropriate components of the immune system and early inhibition of the infection to prevent demise of the infected organism before a more tailored immune response, usually mediated by the adaptive immune system, can be mounted. Autophagy and phagocytosis, modified by the autophagic core machinery, contribute to these functions by regulating pathogen detection, influencing the production of innate immune mediators and directly restricting intracellular and extracellular pathogens as an effector mechanism of innate immunity. These aspects of the involvement of mainly macroautophagy in innate immune responses will be discussed in this review.
    Cellular Microbiology 09/2014; · 4.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epstein Barr virus (EBV) infection expands CD8+ T cells specific for lytic antigens to high frequencies during symptomatic primary infection, and maintains these at significant numbers during persistence. Despite this, the protective function of these lytic EBV antigen-specific cytotoxic CD8+ T cells remains unclear. Here we demonstrate that lytic EBV replication does not significantly contribute to virus-induced B cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo in a mouse model with reconstituted human immune system components (huNSG mice). However, we report a trend to reduction of EBV-induced lymphoproliferation outside of lymphoid organs upon diminished lytic replication. Moreover, we could demonstrate that CD8+ T cells against the lytic EBV antigen BMLF1 can eliminate lytically replicating EBV-transformed B cells from lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) and in vivo, thereby transiently controlling high viremia after adoptive transfer into EBV infected huNSG mice. These findings suggest a protective function for lytic EBV antigen-specific CD8+ T cells against EBV infection and against virus-associated tumors in extra-lymphoid organs. These specificities should be explored for EBV-specific vaccine development.
    PLoS Pathogens 08/2014; 10(8):e1004333. · 8.14 Impact Factor
  • Christian Münz
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    ABSTRACT: Pathogenic viruses are often difficult to study due to their exclusive tropism for humans. The development of mice with human immune system components opens the possibility to study those human pathogens with a tropism for the human hematopoietic lineage in vivo. These include HCMV, EBV, KSHV, HIV, HTLV-1, dengue virus and JC virus. Furthermore, some human pathogens, like HSV-2, adenovirus, HCV, HBV and influenza A virus, with an additional tropism for somatic mouse tissues or for additional transplanted human tissues, mainly liver, have been explored in these models. The cellular tropism of these viruses, their associated diseases and primarily cell-mediated immune responses to these viral infections will be discussed in this review. Already some exciting information has been gained from these novel chimeric in vivo models and future avenues to gain more insights into the pathology, but also potential therapies, will be outlined. Although the respective in vivo models of human immune responses can still be significantly improved, they already provide preclinical systems for in vivo studies of important viral pathogens of humans.
    Immunology Letters 06/2014; 161(1):118-124. · 2.37 Impact Factor
  • Bithi Chatterjee, Carol Sze Leung, Christian Münz
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    ABSTRACT: Epstein Barr virus (EBV) was the first human tumor virus to be identified. Despite 50years of research on this oncogenic virus, no therapeutic or prophylactic vaccine is available against this pathogen. In part, the development of such a vaccine is hampered by the lack of in vivo models for EBV infection and immune control. However, with the advent of mice with reconstituted human immune system components (HIS mice), certain aspects of EBV associated diseases and immune responses can be modeled in vivo. In this review, we will discuss the insights that can be gained from these experiments, and how immune system components can be manipulated to interrogate their function during EBV infection. Finally, we will compare EBV immunobiology in HIS mice to infection by EBV-related viruses in monkeys, and we will outline the strengths and weaknesses of these two in vivo models of EBV infection. Both of these models show great promise as a platform for preclinical EBV vaccine testing.
    Journal of immunological methods 05/2014; · 2.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: De novo regeneration of immunity is a major problem after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT). HCT modeling in severely compromised immune-deficient animals transplanted with human stem cells is currently limited because of incomplete maturation of lymphocytes and scarce adaptive responses. Dendritic cells (DC) are pivotal for the organization of lymph nodes and activation of naive T and B cells. Human DC function after HCT could be augmented with adoptively transferred donor-derived DC. In this study, we demonstrate that adoptive transfer of long-lived human DC coexpressing high levels of human IFN-α, human GM-CSF, and a clinically relevant Ag (CMV pp65 protein) promoted human lymphatic remodeling in immune-deficient NOD.Rag1(-/-).IL-2rγ(-/-) mice transplanted with human CD34(+) cells. After immunization, draining lymph nodes became replenished with terminally differentiated human follicular Th cells, plasma B cells, and memory helper and cytotoxic T cells. Human Igs against pp65 were detectable in plasma, demonstrating IgG class-switch recombination. Human T cells recovered from mice showed functional reactivity against pp65. Adoptive immunotherapy with engineered DC provides a novel strategy for de novo immune reconstitution after human HCT and a practical and effective tool for studying human lymphatic regeneration in vivo in immune deficient xenograft hosts.
    The Journal of Immunology 04/2014; 192(10). · 5.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a human herpesvirus with potent B cell growth transforming ability, induces multiple cellular immune responses in the infected host. How these host responses work together to prevent virus pathogenicity, and how immune imbalance predisposes to disease, remain poorly understood. Here, we describe three ongoing lines of enquiry that are shedding new light on these issues. These focus on: (i) patients with infectious mononucleosis or its fatal equivalent, X-linked lymphoproliferative disease; (ii) EBV infection in a range of new, genetically defined, primary immune deficiency states; and (iii) experimental infection in two complementary animal models, the rhesus macaque and the human haemopoietic stem cell reconstituted mouse.
    Trends in Immunology 02/2014; · 12.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alteration of the surface glycosylation pattern on malignant cells potentially affects tumor immunity by directly influencing interactions with glycan-binding proteins (lectins) on the surface of immunomodulatory cells. The sialic acid-binding Ig-like lectins Siglec-7 and -9 are MHC class I-independent inhibitory receptors on human NK cells that recognize sialic acid-containing carbohydrates. Here, we found that the presence of Siglec-9 defined a subset of cytotoxic NK cells with a mature phenotype and enhanced chemotactic potential. Interestingly, this Siglec-9+ NK cell population was reduced in the peripheral blood of cancer patients. Broad analysis of primary tumor samples revealed that ligands of Siglec-7 and -9 were expressed on human cancer cells of different histological types. Expression of Siglec-7 and -9 ligands was associated with susceptibility of NK cell-sensitive tumor cells and, unexpectedly, of presumably NK cell-resistant tumor cells to NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Together, these observations have direct implications for NK cell-based therapies and highlight the requirement to consider both MHC class I haplotype and tumor-specific glycosylation.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 02/2014; · 15.39 Impact Factor
  • Christian Münz
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    ABSTRACT: Autophagy, a cellular degradation pathway, can restrict or assist viral replication. In this issue of Cell Host & Microbe, Beale et al. (2014) report that the influenza virus matrix protein 2 binds to the essential autophagy protein LC3 to presumably transport LC3-conjugated membranes to the cell surface for budding of stable viruses.
    Cell host & microbe 02/2014; 15(2):130-1. · 13.02 Impact Factor
  • Susana Romao, Christian Münz
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    ABSTRACT: A recent report from our group has described that upon engulfment of pathogens, a subset of phagosomes is formed to preserve antigens for prolonged presentation on MHC class II molecules. The distinctive feature of these particular vesicles is their coating with LC3/Atg8, a key component of the autophagy machinery. Here we discuss the possible outcomes of LC3-associated phagocytosis and its implications in the context of immunity.
    Autophagy 01/2014; 10(3). · 11.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Research in autophagy continues to accelerate,(1) and as a result many new scientists are entering the field. Accordingly, it is important to establish a standard set of criteria for monitoring macroautophagy in different organisms. Recent reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose.(2,3) There are many useful and convenient methods that can be used to monitor macroautophagy in yeast, but relatively few in other model systems, and there is much confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure macroautophagy in higher eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers of autophagosomes versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway; thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from fully functional autophagy that includes delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of the methods that can be used by investigators who are attempting to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as by reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that investigate these processes. This set of guidelines is not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to verify an autophagic response.
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    ABSTRACT: Primary infection with the human oncogenic Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can result in infectious mononucleosis (IM), a self-limiting disease caused by massive lymphocyte expansion that predisposes for the development of distinct EBV-associated lymphomas. Why some individuals experience this symptomatic primary EBV infection, whereas the majority acquires the virus asymptomatically, remains unclear. Using a mouse model with reconstituted human immune system components, we show that depletion of human natural killer (NK) cells enhances IM symptoms and promotes EBV-associated tumorigenesis mainly because of a loss of immune control over lytic EBV infection. These data suggest that failure of innate immune control by human NK cells augments symptomatic lytic EBV infection, which drives lymphocyte expansion and predisposes for EBV-associated malignancies.
    Cell Reports 12/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The potential contribution of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) in the presentation of tumor cell Ags remains unclear, and some controversies exist with regard to the ability of pDCs to phagocytose cell-derived particulate Ags and cross-present them to MHC class I-restricted T lymphocytes. In this study, we show that human pDCs, although inefficient in the internalization of cell membrane fragments by phagocytosis, can efficiently acquire membrane patches and associated molecules from cancer cells of different histotypes. The transfer of membrane patches to pDCs occurred in a very short time and required cell-to-cell contact. Membrane transfer also included intact HLA complexes, and the acquired Ags could be efficiently recognized on pDCs by tumor-specific CD8(+) T cells. Remarkably, pDCs isolated from human colon cancer tissues displayed a strong surface expression of epithelial cell adhesion molecule, indicating that the exchange of exogenous Ags between pDCs and tumor cells also can occur in vivo. These data demonstrate that pDCs are well suited to acquire membrane patches from contiguous tumor cells by a cell-to-cell contact-dependent mechanism that closely resembles "trogocytosis." This phenomenon may allow pDCs to proficiently present tumor cell-derived Ags, despite limited properties of endophagocytosis.
    The Journal of Immunology 12/2013; 192(2). · 5.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Antigen preservation for presentation is a hallmark of potent antigen-presenting cells. In this paper, we report that in human macrophages and dendritic cells, a subset of phagosomes gets coated with Atg8/LC3, a component of the molecular machinery of macroautophagy, and maintains phagocytosed antigens for prolonged presentation on major histocompatibility complex class II molecules. These Atg8/LC3-positive phagosomes are formed around the antigen with TLR2 agonists and require reactive oxygen species production by NOX2 for their generation. A deficiency in the NOX2-dependent formation of these antigen storage phagosomes could contribute to compromise antifungal immune control in chronic granulomatous disease patients.
    The Journal of Cell Biology 12/2013; 203(5):757-66. · 9.69 Impact Factor
  • Obinna Chijioke, Christian Münz
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    ABSTRACT: Dendritic cells (DCs) and natural killer (NK) cells shape each other's functions early during immune responses. DCs activate NK cells and NK cells can mature or kill DCs. In this review we will discuss which DC and NK cell subsets are mainly affected by this interaction, where these encounters might take place and which signals are exchanged. Finally, we will point out what the clinical benefit of understanding this interaction might be and how it changed our view on NK cells as innate lymphocytes.
    Frontiers in Immunology 11/2013; 4:365.
    This article is viewable in ResearchGate's enriched format
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    ABSTRACT: NK cells constitute the first line of defense against pathogens and transformed cells. They mature in secondary lymphoid organs, including tonsils, where common pathogens, such as EBV, enter the host and potentially imprint differentiating cells, which then patrol the body via the blood stream. Therefore, we set out to characterize a distinct human NK cell population in tonsils that produces high amounts of the immunomodulatory and antiviral cytokine IFN-γ. We found that the tonsilar IFN-γ(high) NK cell subset is CD56(bright)NKG2A(+)CD94(+)CD54(+)CD62L(-), is present in tonsils ex vivo and is more mature than other CD56(bright) NK cells in tonsils and less mature than other NK cells in blood, shows very low plasticity even after prolonged cytokine stimulation, accumulates in tonsils of EBV carriers, and is able to potently restrict EBV-induced transformation of B cells. Thus, we characterized a distinct and stable IFN-γ(high) NK cell subpopulation that can specifically restrict malignant transformation of EBV-infected B cells. This subset should be exploited for future development of cell-based therapeutic approaches in EBV-associated malignancies.
    The Journal of Immunology 10/2013; · 5.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is found in a variety of tumors whose incidence greatly varies around the world. A poorly explored hypothesis is that particular EBV strains account for this phenomenon. We report that M81, a virus isolated from a Chinese patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), shows remarkable similarity to other NPC viruses but is divergent from all other known strains. M81 exhibited a reversed tropism relative to common strains with a reduced ability to infect B cells and a high propensity to infect epithelial cells, which is in agreement with its isolation from carcinomas. M81 spontaneously replicated in B cells in vitro and in vivo at unusually high levels, in line with the enhanced viral replication observed in NPC patients. Spontaneous replication and epitheliotropism could be partly ascribed to polymorphisms within viral proteins. We suggest considering M81 and its closely related isolates as an EBV subtype with enhanced pathogenic potential.
    Cell Reports 10/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

8k Citations
1,241.07 Total Impact Points


  • 2008–2015
    • University of Zurich
      • Institut für Experimentelle Immunologie
      Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
    • Case Western Reserve University
      • Center for Global Health and Diseases
      Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • 2013
    • Burnet Institute
      • Centre for Immunology
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 2012
    • University of Michigan
      • Life Sciences Institute
      Ann Arbor, MI, United States
  • 2004–2012
    • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
      • Department of Medicine
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2011
    • University Medical Center Hamburg - Eppendorf
      • Institute of Neuroimmunology and Clinical Multiple Sclerosis Research (inims)
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
    • University Hospital Vall d'Hebron
      • Department of Neurology
      Barcino, Catalonia, Spain
    • University of Birmingham
      • School of Cancer Sciences
      Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
  • 1999–2011
    • The Rockefeller University
      • • Christopher H. Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases
      • • Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology
      New York City, New York, United States
    • Universitätsklinikum Tübingen
      • Division of Neurourology
      Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2010
    • Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich
      • Institute for Immunology
      München, Bavaria, Germany
  • 2009
    • University Hospital Zürich
      Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2007
    • Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
      • Institute of Immunology
      Jena, Thuringia, Germany
  • 2003
    • Yale University
      • Department of Immunobiology
      New Haven, CT, United States
  • 2002
    • Università degli Studi di Genova
      • Dipartimento di Medicina sperimentale (DIMES)
      Genova, Liguria, Italy
    • Columbia University
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1997–2002
    • University of Tuebingen
      • Department of Ethnology
      Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany