- Associate Professor of Oncology
Departments / Divisions
- Oncology - Cancer Prevention and Control and Viral Oncology
Prashant Desai, Ph.D.
The herpesvirus capsid comprises seven proteins that together form a large complex assembly. The intimate association of these proteins to create a protective shell around the virus genome requires multiple protein-protein interactions. These interactions drive the self-assembly of this structure. Assemblies of large protein complexes are evident in a number of cellular systems, including transcription, protein translation, molecular motors and protein degradation. Thus, defining how these multiprotein assemblies associate and interact and characterizing their structural features is a fundamental problem in biology.
The protein coat that protects the virus genomes has been studied as a paradigm for how proteins interact and self-assemble into higher-order structures. Our research addresses the interactions between the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) capsid proteins and the residues that mediate these interactions. The structural features of these multiprotein complexes will be analyzed from isolated complexes and in the context of the capsid shell. The validation of an antiviral target depends on the information gained from identification of interactive domains and their structural characteristics.
Herpesviruses have evolved mechanisms that subvert and hijack normal cellular activities to propagate their progeny. Our goal is to understand the mechanism by which the virus acquires its infectious coat and the role of the virus-encoded functions in this pathway, primarily by analyzing the functions of two tegument proteins, the UL36 and UL37 gene products. The goals of this research program are to understand how these two proteins function in the morphogenesis of the infectious particle and identify the functional domains required for these activities and the interactions that occur during this process. This could potentially lead to the discovery of novel pathways that can be targeted by antiviral intervention.