Division of Infection and Immunity


Dr Pierre Maillard

UCL Excellence Fellow


Research in the Maillard lab aims to understand the cell types and contexts in which antiviral RNA interference plays a role in mammals.

Research summary

My research interests focus on the study of a new layer of mammalian innate immunity based on RNA interference (RNAi). This mechanism is a well-established antiviral defence in plants and invertebrates in which long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) derived from viral replication is cleaved by the enzyme Dicer into small interfering RNA (siRNA). These small RNAs are loaded into an effector complex and guide the cleavage of target RNAs such as the viral genomes and viral transcripts.

During my postdoctoral studies, I opted to explore the potential existence of antiviral RNAi in mammalian cells. I uncovered that this mechanism of antiviral defence is intact and effective in mouse embryonic stem cells but is highly reduced in differentiated cells. In these latter cells, the introduction of long dsRNA triggers RNAi but it is inhibited by the interferon pathway. My research now aims to characterise the cell types and contexts in which this ancestral mechanism plays a role in the mammalian antiviral defence system.

Selected publications