Fenyong Liu, Professor

Closed (1) Studies of Nucleic Acid-based Agents for Inhibition of Viral Replication

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

The long-term goals of our research are (1) to study the functions of genes of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) (the causative agent of genital herpes and cold sores) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) (the leading cause of congenital abnormalities in newborns and blindness and death in AIDS patients) in regulation of viral replication and pathogenesis, and (2) to develop effective approaches for prevention and treatment of SHV and CMV infections. RNA enzymes (ribozymes) are being developed as promising antiviral agents by cleaving a specific RNA, such as HIV RNA. Recently, we have shown that a ribozyme derived from RNase P catalytic RNA can cleave the viral mRNA encoding the HSV thymidine kinase both in vitro and in tissue culture. In vitro biochemical and genetic analyses will be carried out to study how the RNA enzyme interacts with the substrate. Studies in tissue culture will also be carried out to determine the cleavage efficiency and the substrate specificity of the RNA enzyme in HSV infected cells. The objective of this project is to study the mechanism of the RNA enzyme to cleave the viral mRNA sequence, thus providing insight into the general mechanism of RNA catalysis and generating guidelines for construction of efficient RNA enzymes to combat viral infections. The undergraduate research apprentice would learn to apply modern techniques in molecular genetics, RNA biochemistry, and virology.

Applicants should be: a major in MCB or Chemistry; interested in a career in biomedical research or medicine; prepared to work for a full year and possibly for another year; prepared to work 15-20 hours per week which includes time in the evening and on weekends.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Adam Smith

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours