White, Judith M.

Judith M. White

Judith M. White

Primary Appointment

Professor, Cell Biology


  • PhD, Harvard University

Contact Information

Telephone: 434-924-2593
Email: jw7g@virginia.edu
Website: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~jw7g

Research Interests

Virus Entry into Cells, Virus-Cell Fusion, Entry Inhibitors

Research Description

The White Laboratory studies virus entry into host cells. Our past work focused on mechanisms by which the fusion proteins of enveloped viruses (e.g. the influenza hemagglutinin and retroviral Env proteins) mediate the critical process of virus-cell fusion, the means by which viral genetic material is introduced into cells to initiate infection. Our work uncovered key steps in the process of virus fusion: conformational changes that convert the protein to a "prehairpin" state in which the fusion peptide is firmly tethered in the host cell bilayer and the additional "fold-back" steps that form a "trimer-of-hairpins" that mediates hemifusion and fusion pore opening. We have also studied how different viral fusion proteins are activated, and we provided a ctitical proof of concept that targeting viral fusion proteins with small molecules is an effective anti-viral strategy. We are currently studying how filoviruses, typified by the highly pathogenic ebolavirus, enter and fuse with host cells. We are intrigued to study ebolavirus entry (which we do under BSL-2 conditions with pseudovirions and viral-like particles) for several reasons: Ebolavirus infects an unusually wide variety of host cells, it is large and unusually shaped, and it is not known how the viral glycoprotein is activated for fusion. In addition to basic studies that address these unknown features, we are actively working to identify inhibitors that block filovirus entry into host cells.

Selected Publications