Assistant Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics
- BS, Chemistry, MONTANA TECH of University MONTANA
- PhD, Biochemistry, University of Utah
The Structural Biology of HIV assembly
There are two morphologically distinct forms of the HIV-1 virus, called immature and mature. The immature virion is the form that initially assembles and initiates budding from the plasma membrane. During or immediately after budding, the viral protease is activated and catalyzes a process termed maturation that results in a reorganization of the immature virus into the mature infectious form. The mature HIV-1 virion has a centrally located conical core. The core is composed of a protein capsid that encapsulates two copies of the RNA genome and many of the cellular and viral factors that are necessary to initiate a new infection within the cell. Our overall goal is to develop atomic resolution structures of the immature and mature capsids and to understand, in molecular detail, how the virus reorganizes during maturation.
In addition, we are also interested in cellular factors that bind to the immature and mature capsid. Recently, we have been studying a protein called TRIM5a - a member of the host's innate immune system - that is capable of recognizing the incoming mature capsid and targeting it for destruction.
We use a "hybrid methods" approach that combines molecular biology, biochemistry, high-resolution electron microscopy, and x-ray crystallography.