CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: March 14, 1999
UI researcher receives grant to study herpes infection
IOWA CITY, Iowa A University of Iowa Health Care researcher has received
a five-year $905,476 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to
continue his investigation of the herpes simplex virus.
Richard J. Roller, Ph.D., UI assistant professor of microbiology, is researching,
"The Role of UL34 in Herpes Simplex Virus Infection."
Herpes simplex viruses infect the majority of the adult population. In many
infected people, these viruses cause painful lesions around either the mouth
or genitals. In people with immature or impaired immune systems -- such as
newborn babies, cancer therapy and transplant patients, and people with AIDS
-- the virus can infect other organs and cause extremely painful and life-threatening
Roller and researchers in his lab want to identify and characterize processes
that are essential for virus replication and are carried out by virus proteins.
The investigators hope that interfering with these processes will inhibit
virus replication without harming uninfected cells and tissues.
"Like all viruses, herpes simplex viruses reproduce by entering healthy
cells, hijacking the normal cellular machinery to make viral components, and
then exiting from the cell," Roller said. "The central problem in
developing safe and effective anti-viral therapies is that the virus uses
the cellular machinery for many steps of its replication, and interference
with those steps will be harmful to healthy, uninfected cells in the host."
The NIH has funded Roller's studies of how herpes viruses get out of an infected
cell after replication. The first step in herpes simplex virus exit is called
envelopment and occurs when the virus nucleocapsid (a complex of virus DNA
and protein) wraps itself in a small patch of the nuclear membrane.
"We have identified a virus protein called UL34 that is essential for
envelopment and are working to identify the means by which it mediates wrapping
of the virus capsid," Roller said. "The envelopment process mediated
by UL34 is used not only by herpes simplex viruses, but by all other human
herpes viruses including those that cause chicken pox and infectious mononucleosis."
Roller expects that his results can provide the means to identify drugs
that interfere with this step in replication of herpes simplex virus and others
human herpes viruses.
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