Human and viral genes are complex units of information whose tightly regulated expression produces a dazzling array of phenotypes. Our focus is the study of gene expression from the perspective of RNA biology. The laboratory studies this regulation in two biological contexts of great biomedical importance: 1) Infection of human and insect cells with flaviviruses such as dengue and yellow fever viruses, and 2) epithelial-mesenchymal transitions among carcinoma cells.
Human and insect host factors important for flaviviruses.
Flaviviruses are a major health problem in the tropics and represent an emerging danger to global health. This threat was loudly announced by the North American West Nile virus epidemic, caused by a related flavivirus. Comparatively little is known about the molecular biology of these viruses, and my laboratory is applying tools and methods we have developed to study human gene expression to shed light into critical functions of these important pathogens. The laboratory is dissecting the host factors, both insect and human, required for infection with pathogenic flaviviruses using en masse approaches. Given that these viruses live in an RNA world never using DNA as genetic material, many of these host factors were expected to be RNA binding proteins and indeed our studies uncovered many of these.
The work on flaviviruses is done at Duke University School of Medicine and at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.