Research Overview

Our laboratory is dedicated to discovering the mRNA regulatory mechanisms necessary for pathogenic retroviruses to replicate and persist. Because retroviruses are dependent on ubiquitous cellular processes, they provide a tractable microcosm to elucidate principles and mechanisms underlying infectious disease and cancer.The interface of virus mRNA biology with cellular posttranscriptional mechanisms is the focus of our investigations. By study of retroviruses, we have unveiled stealth ribonucleoprotein complexes that viruses adapt to support their own proliferation. Because these RNPs are usurped from a cell-protective role to a proviral role, our research has broadened to the study of how defects in mRNA regulatory pathways contribute to cancer and metabolic disorders. In particular, we are trying to understand the mechanisms used by human retroviruses to proliferate and by cells to overcome physiological flux in nutrient availability or energy levels.

Our approach is multidisciplinary and hypothesis-based. We collect genomic and proteomic data from mammalian cells, and employ genetic, cell biological, biochemical and biophysical strategies to research our hypotheses. Our results continue to uncover fundamental concepts governing the biology of cells and viruses in health and disease. We hope to translate our findings therapeutically to eliminate virally-infected lymphocytes and pre-cancerous cells.

Key Words: Virus-host interface biology; HIV-1, HTLV-1, retroviruses; ribonucleoprotein complex; viral RNP; translation initiation; 4E-binding protein; RNA silencing suppression; RNA helicase; chaperone