Viruses need to enter host cells to replicate, spread and cause disease. During this entry process, viruses hijack cellular protein interaction networks. They bind to attachment factors and receptors on the cell surface and use entry cofactors to trigger a coordinated and productive uptake into cells. Understanding the molecular details of virus entry is clinically relevant as host entry factors can be targeted with drugs to prevent or treat virus infections. Moreover it can help understand the pathology caused by viruses and the potential risk of zoonotic infections, i.e. the spread of viruses from animals to humans.
Our group aims at elucidating the protein networks operating during the entry of mosquito-transmitted viruses of the Flaviviridae and Togaviridae families including Chikungunya virus and Zika virus. Viruses of these two families can cause pathologies ranging from arthritis to encephalitis and microcephaly. Using quantitative proteomics in conjunction with RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas9 knockout techniques our goal is to identify host factors for virus entry. We then use what we have learned to investigate if these host factors are causative for tissue and species tropism.
This work holds the promise of guiding antiviral drug development to prevent and treat mosquito-borne virus infections.