Microbiology & Immunology
Area of interest
The work in our laboratory focuses on the pathogenesis of human papillomaviruses (HPV), which are small DNA viruses that exhibit epithelial tropism. Of the over 100 types of HPV identified, fifteen of these are categorized as high-risk and are considered the causative agents of cervical cancer. High-risk HPVs are also associated with cancers of the anus, oropharynx and esophagus, identifying HPV as a risk factor for multiple human cancers. The life cycle of HPV is dependent on cellular factors and epithelial differentiation. Differentiation triggers the productive phase of the life cycle, which includes viral genome amplification, late gene expression and virion production. Paradoxically, these events occur in differentiated cells that normally would have exited the cell cycle. To ensure virion production, HPV proteins re-program the cellular DNA synthesis machinery upon differentiation, pushing cells into S phase to allow for viral replication. The ability of the HPV oncoproteins E6 and E7 to target critical regulators of cell cycle progression results in the bypass of checkpoints that would normally eliminate abnormal cells. This results in the accumulation of genetic alterations that eventually lead to transformation and cancer development. However, the mechanisms by which the differentiation-dependent phase of the viral life cycle is regulated are unclear. My lab is interested in defining signaling pathways modulated by HPV that promote the productive phase of the life cycle, in turn contributing to viral pathogenesis and possibly transformation.
Awards and Honors
National Institutes of Health K99 Pathway to Independence Award Recipient, 2008-Present.
Katten-Muchin-Rosenman Travel Scholarship Award. Northwestern University, July, 2006.
American Cancer Society. Post-Doctoral Fellowship Recipient, 2006-2008.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Fellowship Recipient, 2005-2006