Bryan Cullen, PhD

James B. Duke Professor
Founding Director, Center for Virology

Headshot of Bryan Cullen

424 CARL Building
Box 3025 DUMC
Durham, N.C. 27710
Phone: (919) 684-3369
Fax: (919) 681-8979
Email: bryan.cullen@duke.edu

 

research • biography • lab members • publications • lab website

Research:

While my laboratory has for several years been a leader in research directed at identifying viral microRNAs and discovering their contributions to viral replication and pathogenicity, this work has now largely ended as departing postdocs have taken their viral microRNA projects with them to their own laboratories. Instead, our work is now broadly focused on two fairly new areas. Firstly, we have been working on optimizing CRISPR/Cas-based gene editing strategies as a way to treat diseases caused by several pathogenic human viruses, including HIV-1, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and herpes simplex virus. This work has led to a number of publications and also to a patent application. Secondly, my laboratory has recently become very interested in epitranscriptomic regulation of viral gene expression, that is how covalent modifications that are added co-transcriptionally to mRNAs at the single nucleotide level, including particularly addition of a methyl group at the N6 position of adenosine (m6A), affect viral replication and pathogenesis. The level of m6A found on viral mRNAs is substantially higher than seen on cellular mRNAs, suggesting that viruses have evolved to efficiently recruit the cellular methyltransferases that generate m6A. In fact, we have recently reported in three high profile manuscripts that m6A addition not only facilitates viral gene expression and replication but also increases viral pathogenicity in vivo. Going forward, we anticipate that investigation of m6A function in a viral context, as well as research into other RNA modifications, such as m5C and 2’OMe, that are found at high levels on viral RNAs, will form a major part of our research efforts.