The major interest of the laboratory is the molecular pathogenesis of viral infection, with an emphasis on mosquito-transmitted viruses. Mosquito-transmitted viruses include flaviviruses, such as Dengue virus and West Nile virus, bunyaviruses, such as Rift Valley fever virus, and alphaviruses, such as chikungunya virus and Ross River virus. Chikungunya virus and Ross River virus cause debilitating, and often chronic, musculoskeletal disease in humans characterized by severe joint pain and inflammation, tenosynovitis, and myositis. These viruses are capable of initiating explosive epidemics that can involve thousands to millions of infected patients and are an emerging disease threat.
My research utilizes mouse models based on chikungunya virus or Ross River virus infection to investigate host and viral factors that contribute to immunopathologic inflammation and disease. These mouse models enable us to utilize transgenic and knockout strains to study the role of specific host genes in the disease process and investigate the genetics of host susceptibility to infection. Additionally, due to the well-established alphavirus reverse genetics system, we are able to easily manipulate the genome of the virus. Taken together, these advantages provide a highly tractable system to establish mechanisms by which viral interactions with the host lead to disease. In addition, these models can be utilized to test immunomodulatory therapeutics and novel vaccine approaches to treat or prevent these virus-induced inflammatory diseases.
1) Understanding the virus-host interactions that initiate severe inflammatory responses in musculoskeletal tissues
2) Defining macrophage effector mechanisms that mediate protection and/or pathology following RRV/CHIKV infection
3) Molecular mechanisms of chronic joint inflammation and disease associated with CHIKV infection
Current Lab Members
Lauren Oko, Professional Research Associate
Kristina A. Stoermer, 3rd year student, Graduate Program in Immunology
Henri J. Jupille, 3rd year student, Graduate Program in Microbiology