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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 74 | 16. Oktober 2018
Priority Programme “Innate Lymphoid Cells”
(SPP 1937)

In March 2015, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Innate Lymphoid Cells” (SPP 1937). The programme was launched in 2016 and is intended to run for six years. This call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

During the past ten years, novel types of innate lymphocytes have been discovered and characterised in mice and man that are now collectively referred to as innate lymphoid cells (ILC). The family of ILC currently comprises five major subsets: NK cells and four subsets of tissue-resident helper-like ILC (ILC1, ILC2, ILC3 and lymphoid tissue inducer [LTi] ILC3) that display distinct transcriptional and functional programmes. This unexpected heterogeneity of ILC, which is reminiscent of the different types of T cells, points to an entirely novel level of complexity within lymphoid cell lineages. The existence of the ILC family raises new fundamental questions in immunology with profound ramifications for immunity to infections and for the pathogenesis of inflammation-driven diseases. What may be even more significant is that ILC are seeded into tissues early in ontogeny and become an integral part of tissues. Thus, ILC may play important and non-redundant roles early in life and appear to have important functions beyond those traditionally associated with the immune system. Thus, ILC are involved in organ homeostasis, adaptive organ and tissue growth, epithelial regeneration and repair and they regulate lipid and glucose metabolism.

The Priority Programme has established the first interdisciplinary research programme worldwide that comprehensively investigates the newly discovered family of ILC in mouse models and humans. It is the aim of the programme to provide novel insights into ILC as guardians of tissue homeostasis and repair, in the defense against infections and in the pathogenesis of inflammation-driven diseases. SPP 1937 is also including an effort for a standardised definition of the various ILC subsets.

The programme intends to bring together immunologists, microbiologists, and clinical scientists such as gastroenterologists, rheumatologists and dermatologists as well as scientists interested in epithelial cell biology and experts in key technologies. Proposals submitted to this call should address the following fundamental aspects:

  • Signals and molecular mechanisms controlling ILC differentiation, homeostasis, effector functions and adaptive properties of ILC
    Key issues here will be (1) to define transcription factors, epigenetic landscape and ILC-intrinsic molecules driving development and differentiation of ILC; (2) to analyse the interaction of ILC with non-hematopoietic and hematopoietic cells and their effects on ILC development, function and maintenance; (3) to identify strategies of immune recognition in ILC; (4) to investigate adaptive traits of ILC (e.g., “ILC memory”, role of Rag proteins for ILC fitness, etc.); (5) to study the conservation of ILC in evolution.
  • ILC in tissue homeostasis and immunity in human and mouse
    Key issues here will be (1) to probe the role of ILC in organ homeostasis and tissue renewal (2) to analyse ILC in the defense against infections; (3) to interrogate the role of ILC in inflammatory diseases and in inflammation-driven diseases.
  • Developing cutting-edge tools and protocols for a rigorous analysis of ILC biology
    One of the major common task of the consortium is to design and establish consensus staining panels for the analysis of phenotypic, differentiation and functional properties of human and mouse ILCs through different tissues, genetic backgrounds and diseases using multiple parameter single cell analysis such as flow cytometry and CyTOF.
  • Other key issues will be (1) to develop and validate methods to visualise the specific localisation of ILC in situ, their in vivo behaviour and their network of interactions using imaging technologies such as Multi-Epitope-Ligand-Cartography (MELC) and intravital multi-photon microscopy; (2) to develop genetic tools for the specific and selective ablation/manipulation of ILC subsets; (3) to develop or apply tools for multidimensional analysis of ILC in the tissue context (e.g., single cell RNA-seq of entire tissues).
  • Interdisciplinary projects, e.g. in the context of joint applications of two principle investigators are encouraged, in particular for projects concerning the role of ILC in organ homeostasis and those aimed at the development and application of customised technology.

Not eligible for funding within SPP 1937 are proposals on:

  • mechanisms that are only operative in NK cells but not in other ILC subsets (e.g., acquisition of the KIR/Ly49 receptor repertoire, NK cell education or “licensing”, etc.)
  • work related to innate-like T cells (e.g., γδ T cells, iNKT cells, MAIT cells, etc.)
  • interactions between ILC and microbial communities
  • pure sequencing efforts without any biological question
  • descriptive or clinical studies aimed at the definition of biomarkers without seeking mechanistic understanding

The deadline for proposal submission is 30 January 2019.

Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG.

If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 23 January 2019 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

For new proposals: If you would like to submit a proposal for a new project within the existing Priority Programme, please go to Proposal Submission – New Project – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 1937/2 – Innate Lymphoid Cells” from the current list of calls.

For renewal proposals: Previous applicants can submit a proposal for the renewal of an existing project under Proposal Submission – Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal. Title, subject area etc. are preset, but modifiable.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal. In addition to submitting your proposal via elan, please send an electronic copy to the programme coordinator.

A colloquium for evaluation of all proposals is scheduled for 27 and 28 May 2019 in Berlin. The envisaged start of funding is end of 2019/beginning of 2020.

Further information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

Further instructions on submitting a proposal are supplied by the DFG:

For scientific matters:

For administrative and elan matters:


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