Professor Stacey Efstathiou
Following an acute primary infection all members of the Herpesvirus family establish a lifelong latent infection within the host which can subsequently reactivate to infect susceptible individuals. The mechanisms by which herpesviruses evade the host immune response and subsequently establish latency is the main focus of research within our laboratory. In the case of herpes simplex virus, an alpha-neurotropic virus, we are investigating the regulation of gene expression during latency and reactivation using in vivo models and primary neuronal culture systems. These studies utilise recombinant viruses carrying reporter genes under control of either lytic or latent cycle promoters thus allowing patterns of gene expression to be monitored within individual cells. These systems are being utilised to investigate the role of the virus encoded latency associated transcripts in the regulation of latency and the role of histone modifications in the control of virus gene expression.
In addition to our studies of neurotropic herpesviruses we are also investigating the pathogenesis of the lymphotropic herpesvirus - murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV-68). This virus provides an amenable system by which to investigate the role of individual gene products in both acute and latent gammaherpesvirus infection. The virus genome has been propagated as a bacterial artificial chromosome allowing the efficient production of virus gene knockout mutants. The rapid generation of virus mutants and their subsequent characterisation in vivo provides an opportunity to elucidate strategies adopted by this group of viruses to persist in the host.