Department of Pathology

Dr Colin Crump

Research description

Figure 1: Electron micrograph of a herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) particle.

Our laboratory studies the assembly and egress of viruses with a focus on the cellular mechanisms utilised and modified by viruses during their replication. We primarily study two families of important human pathogens: herpesviruses and polyomaviruses. 

Herpesviruses are large (~200nm) and complex enveloped dsDNA viruses that are ubiquitous pathogens of vertebrates and establish life-long latent infections in their hosts. Infections by the nine known human herpesviruses are associated with many serious diseases including certain lymphomas and life-threatening conditions in immuno-compromised patients. The assembly of herpesviruses is known to involve the budding of nucleocapsids, together with the complex layer of tegument proteins, at membranes derived from post-Golgi endocytic compartments. Once formed, the membrane-bound compartments containing the mature virions undergo exocytosis to release infectious viruses from the cell.

Figure 2: Immunofluorescence image of a cell infected with herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1). The localisation of two different major viral structural proteins is shown in green and red

Polyomaviruses are small (~45nm) non-enveloped dsDNA viruses that are ubiquitous pathogens in humans and can establish life-long persistent infections with periodic virus shedding. While polyomavirus infections are generally benign in immuno-competent hosts they are known to cause serious disease in immuno-compromised patients including haemorrhagic cystitis, polyomavirus-associated nephropathy, Merkel cell carcinoma, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

Examples of current ongoing projects in the lab are:

  1. Developing super-resolution microscopy to image the structure and assembly of viruses in cells
  2. Viral and cellular mechanisms of herpes simplex virus envelopment
  3. The role of herpesvirus tegument proteins in virus assembly and egress
  4. Secretion and release of herpesviruses from infected cells
  5. Cellular pathways involved in polyomavirus egress