A Course-Based Research Experience Approach to Examining Host Factors Involved in Viral Replication

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Benjamin Kopek

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Positive-strand RNA [(+)RNA] viruses are significant threats to human health and include pathogens that are the leading cause of liver cancer and foodborne illnesses in the U.S. Despite the threat (+)RNA viruses pose to human health, few antivirals exist to combat virus infection and replication. As obligate parasites, viruses modulate host functions to create a favorable environment for replication. In turn, host cells modulate their own functions (i.e., immune systems) in a cat-and-mouse game to halt virus replication. Elucidating virus-host interactions may provide novel routes for controlling viruses. As part of a Course-Based Research Experience, students examined the role of host factors in viral replication using the model (+)RNA virus Flock House virus (FHV). Drosophila melanogaster cells are hosts for FHV, allowing us to perform our screens in these cells in culture. Target genes were selected from previous screens performed in yeast or from transcriptomic studies of FHV infected cells. Using a Crispr/Cas9 gene-editing approach, students knocked-out selected genes, and then tested the effect on FHV replication. Our results identified multiple host genes that affected FHV replication. Follow up studies were, and are being, performed to determine the precise role these genes play in (+)RNA virus replication.


This research was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Undergraduate Science Education Program.

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