Klinik für Psychische Gesundheit

Laboratory of Immune-Neurobiology

Theme and Objectives

Growing body of evidence demonstrates a close link between mental disorders and inflammatory immune responses. However, the complex bidirectional interactions between the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral immune system in affective disorders are sparsely understood. The investigation of the underlying immune mechanisms implicated in major depression and depression-associated behavior is one major research topic of our lab. The specific focus of our studies is the phenotypic and functional characterization of dendritic cells and their effector molecules in vivo utilizing gene deficient and reporter mouse models. In translational approaches we determine immune signatures linked to severity of depression and treatment outcomes in individual patients. Our studies will lead to a better understanding of the relationships between the immune system and the CNS in depression with the future aim to identify immune-related markers of predictive relevance. A second research topic of the lab are neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer`s disease. Here we employ mouse models of Alzheimer`s disease to characterize the impact of myeloid cells and the chemokine CCL17 in disease associated immune processes.


  • Dr. rer. nat. Rafael Leite Dantas (Post-doc)
  • M. Sc. Jana Freff (PhD student)
  • M. Sc. Lisa Bröker 
  • Petra Köckemann (Technical Assistant)


  • Immune mechanisms associated with major depression and depression-associated behavior
  • Translational studies in affective disorders to establish immune signatures of predictive relevance
  • Dendritic cells and the chemokine CCL17 in neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in mouse models for Alzheimer`s disease  

Current funding

  • DFG (DFG-FOR2107, Project: Inflammatory mechanisms in the context of gene x environment interactions in affective disorders, in coop. Prof. Holger Garn und Prof. Carsten Culmsee, Philipps-Universität Marburg)           

Current selected publications

  1. Culmsee C, Michels S, Scheu S, Arolt V, Dannlowski U, Alferink J. Mitochondria, Microglia, and the Immune System - How Are They Linked in Affective Disorders? Front Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 9;9:739. Review.
  2. Ahmetspahic D, Schwarte K, Ambrée O, Bürger C, Falcone V, Seiler K, Kooybaran  MR, Grosse L, Roos F, Scheffer J, Jörgens S, Koelkebeck K, Dannlowski U, Arolt V, Scheu S, Alferink J. Altered B Cell Homeostasis in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder and Normalization of CD5 Surface Expression on Regulatory B Cells in Treatment Responders. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2018 Mar;13(1):90-99.
  3. Scheu S, Ali S, Ruland C, Arolt V, Alferink J. The C-C Chemokines CCL17 and CCL22 and Their Receptor CCR4 in CNS Autoimmunity. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Nov 2;18(11). Review.
  4. Ruland C, Renken H, Kuzmanov I, Fattahi Mehr A, Schwarte K, Cerina M, Herrmann A, Otte DM, Zimmer A, Schwab N, Meuth SG, Arolt V, Klotz L, Förster I, Scheu S, Alferink J. Chemokine CCL17 is expressed by dendritic cells in the CNS during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and promotes pathogenesis of disease. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Nov;66:382-393.
  5. Ambrée O, Klassen I, Förster I, Arolt V, Scheu S, Alferink J. Reduced locomotor activity and exploratory behavior in CC chemokine receptor 4 deficient  mice. Behav Brain Res. 2016 Nov 1;314:87-95.
  6. Poppensieker K, Otte DM, Schürmann B, Limmer A, Dresing P, Drews E, Schumak B, Klotz L, Raasch J, Mildner A, Waisman A, Scheu S, Knolle P, Förster I, Prinz M, Maier W, Zimmer A, Alferink J. CC chemokine receptor 4 is required for experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by regulating GM-CSF and IL-23 production in dendritic cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 6;109(10):3897-902.

Pubmed-link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=alferink+j


Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Judith Alferink

Tel.: +49 (0) 251 / 83-56663
E-Mail: Judith.Alferink(at)­ukmuenster(dot)­de