White, Judith M.
Professor, Cell Biology
- PhD, Harvard University
Biochemistry, Infectious Diseases/Biodefense, Microbiology
Virus Entry into Cells: Mechanisms and Development of Anti-Viral Therapeutics
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 has led to a general model for how all viral fusion proteins function. We also provided a critical proof of concept that targeting viral fusion proteins can be 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 have been engaged in successful efforts to identify FDA-approved drugs that block filovirus entry into, and infection of, host cells.