Understanding virus structure is crucial in order to decipher important features of the viral lifecycle as well as to open up new avenues to interfere with virus assembly.
Specifically, we are interested in the conservation and diversity of retroviral capsid assemblies. The retrovirus family includes important human pathogens, such as HIV-1, but also other important retroviral model systems. Our recent advances in cryo-ET methodology and the ongoing improvement of retroviral in vitro assembly systems have now made it possible to provide unprecedented high-resolution insights into retroviral Gag and CA structures (see Publications). We continue to study how different retroviruses asssemble immature and mature virus particles and to what extent their assembly and maturation mechanism differ.
Our recent studies have identified IP6 as a naturally occurring factor that promotes and regulates both HIV-1 assembly and maturation and has a conserved role in the lentivirus genus. We are now pursuing our efforts to understand if IP6 is playing a conserved role in the assembly and maturation mechanisms in other retroviral genera.
We also use our methods to reveal the structure of other pleomorphic viruses at high resolution by improving the versatility of the methods, both at the data acquisition and the image processing side. Besides studying retroviruses we are also interested in DNA-viruses such as Vaccinia viruses. In addition to our interest in their structure, Vaccinia are also important model organisms to understand actin-mediated pathogen propulsion.