Imagine Eve taking over the keyserver both Alice and Bob are using.
By replacing Alice and Bob's public keys with her own, she can do a man-in-the-middle attack decrypting messages and relaying them re-encrypted with the original keys.
Even if Alice and Bob sign their messages (by encrypting a hash with their private keys), Eve could just replace the signature with her own, as Alice and Bob only have falsified public keys to verify the signature.
Even if Alice's and Bob's public keys are signed by other users, Eve can also sign her fake key with a lot of other fake users. To verify the key signatures, Alice and Bob again have to rely on the keyserver to supply the public keys to verify these signatures.
The only way to verify that the signed public keys are genuine is to follow the chain of trust back to Alice and Bob themselves, as Eve can't forge their signature. But for one, the chain of trust might not even reach Alice and Bob and, more severe, even to verify their OWN signature, they need to have access to their own untampered public keys, which would make having them around locally just as important as the private key.
This fact is not mentioned in usual PGP manuals, the public key is not protected by a passphrase and it might even be overwritten by an 'update' from the rogue keyserver.
Where am I wrong in my assumptions? What measures are in place to prevent this? Does the 'verify signature' function of GnuPG indeed follow the chain of trust back to the own private key, or does it just check the first level of signatures with public keys from the keyserver?
Update: I've already found "Shouldn't GPG key fetching use a secure connection?" and "Is connection to keyserver encrypted?". Both state, in short, that the complete PGP system is useless UNLESS you can find one (or better more) path(s) from your own (or another ultimately trusted) key to the sender. But still they don't mention that this ultimately boils down to the integrity of your locally copy of your own (or other ultimately trusted) public key. So the question remains: is this enforced and checked by GnuPG?