Christopher C. Nguyen
M.S., Cell and Molecular Biology, 2009, Tulane University
I am investigating the role of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein (pRB) in viral gene expression.  pRB is an important regulator of the cell division cycle and the pRB pathway is often disrupted in human cancer. pRB exerts its influence on host cell gene expression by forming complexes with E2F transcription factors that repress the genes that E2Fs regulate.  Many different viruses that replicate their genomes in the host cell nucleus inactivate pRB to stimulate the expression of host cell factors that are necessary for efficient viral DNA synthesis.  HCMV encodes a viral protein kinase that mimics the activity of host cell protein kinases (CDKs) that ordinarily inactivate pRB to promote cell cycle progression towards S-phase.  At least two other HCMV proteins, pp71 and IE2, have been reported to interact with pRB. I am investigating the hypothesis that HCMV exploits pRB to help achieve orderly gene expression.  Specifically, I am interrogating the role of pRB in binding to HCMV chromatin to regulate viral gene expression and in turn, the viral replication cycle.

Supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P30-GM110703).