Ari Helenius

ETH Zurich


Primary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Secondary Section: 44, Microbial Biology
Membership Type: International Member (elected 2009)

Research Interests

Over the years, my work has involved several areas and disciplines; membrane biology, cell biology, virology, protein biochemistry, and glycobiology. The first contributions involved the conceptual foundation for the use of detergents in the solubilization of membranes, isolation and characterization of membrane proteins, and membrane reconstitution. In the next phase, I studied how animal viruses enter and infect their host cells and found that most of them take advantage of receptor-mediated endocytosis followed by low pH-induced membrane penetration in endosomal compartments. The viral spike glycoproteins serve as membrane fusion proteins usually activated through an acid-induced conformational change. The virus entry studies also contributed to the recognition of endosomes as important, acidic prelysosomal sorting compartments in the endocytic pathway. Finally, using viral glycoproteins as tools I analyzed the mechanisms of oxidative protein folding and oligomeric assembly in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of living cells. This led to the discovery of the calnexin/calreticulin cycle, the concept of "quality control," and the description of the role that N-linked glycans and their trimming in the synthesis and maturation of proteins. Current studies concentrate on the analysis of virus endocytosis and the mapping of cellular processes involved in early virus/cell interactions.

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