Jules A. Hoffmann

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Primary Section: 43, Immunology and Inflammation
Membership Type: International Member (elected 2008)


JH trained in Biology in Luxembourg and in Strasbourg in the 60ies before taking up a position at the French National Research Center. His research centered on endocrine control of development in insects and on antimicrobial defenses in grasshoppers and, since the 70ies, in Drosophila. JH and his group showed that a microbial challenge induced in flies the synthesis of potent antimicrobial peptides. They identified the receptors which enable flies to recognize the invading pathogens, and deciphered the signaling cascades activated by this recognition leading to the transcription of the genes encoding the antimicrobial peptides. Among these receptors, a type I transmembrane protein, Toll, attracted special interest. This was the first innate immune receptor controlling gene transcription to be identified in an animal model. Through a series of international collaborations (the Janeway group at Yale and the Beutler group at Dallas, and others), it was established that Toll and Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are highly conserved in evolution, and play significant roles in innate immune defenses in humans. The studies have since extended to other innate immune receptors and signaling cascades in flies and other invertebrates and to their relevance in defense and physiology.

Research Interests

My present studies remain centered around Drosophila defenses.  Like other invertebrates (95 % of all animal species on earth) flies develop cancer and although a lot of information is available on the pathways of oncogenesis in this species, the mechanisms by which flies recognize the presence of cancer cells and how they react, are poorly characterized. We have now established that both recognition and subsequent defense reactions in flies differ markedly in response to injections of pathogens and cancer cells. With adequate up-to-date methodologies we are trying to decipher the molecular and cellular basis of these reactions in adult Drosophila. Insects lack adaptive immunity and lymphocytes which have appeared only in Vertebrates.  O note : I am at present emeritus research director at CNRS and was appointed recently as the Chair of Integrative Biology of the Institute for Advanced  Study of the University of Strasbourg where I have a small research group. Most of my current research is supported and carried out at Guangzhou Medical University in China which has established a small research Institute, referred to as ?Sino-French Hoffmann Institute of Immunology? (official agreements between CNRS, the University of Strasbourg and Guangzhou Medical University).

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