Hepatitis C virus (HCV) represents a major public health problem, infecting an estimated 2% of the world’s population (approximately 123-170 million people). In fact, there are 3 to 4 times more individuals chronically infected with HCV than HIV. In most cases, HCV infection becomes chronic and can persist for decades, leading to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma. There is no vaccine against HCV and the current approved treatments has limited efficacy on the many HCV genotypes. HCV is an enveloped virus with two glycoproteins (E1 and E2) that form the outer shell of the virus particle. As in the case of other enveloped viruses, HCV infection requires fusion between viral and host cell membrane before the viral genome can be released into the host cell cytosol. This critical step is thought to occur in the endosomal compartment, is triggered by low pH, and likely requires structural rearrangement of the glycoproteins. In addition to its role in membrane fusion, E2 is essential for cell targeting by recognition of host cellular receptors and for immune evasion. Our laboratory is focused on studying the structure and function HCV E1 and E2, in the hopes of developing 1) a better understanding of how HCV enters a host cell, 2) small molecule inhibitors, and 3) a protective HCV vaccine to stop spread of the virus.
GPA: 3.7 or higher
Course Experience: Must have taken or is currently enrolled in biochemistry. To enroll in 11:115:403,404 General Biochemistry (4,3), students must have completed 01:160:307-308 Organic Chemistry (4,4) with a grade of C or higher.
Recent publications from the laboratory
Structural basis of RNA recognition and activation by innate immune receptor RIG-I. Nature 2011 Sep 25;479(7373):423-7.
Blocking hepatitis C virus infection with recombinant form of envelope protein 2 ectodomain. Journal of Virology 2009 Nov;83(21):11078-89.