Insight into the Exquisite Interactions Between Host and Pathogen

Image - Insight into the Exquisite Interactions Between Host and Pathogen

“A virus is a pathogen that knows more about us than we do, and by understanding it, we can understand more about ourselves, ” explains Dr David Jacques, a structural biologist who was recruited to Single Molecule Science (SMS) at the end of 2017.

David secured funding via an ARC Discovery Project grant  – beginning in 2018 – to set up a new research group investigating the molecular interactions between a virus and its host.

It remains unclear exactly how viruses like HIV evade host defence mechanisms. David explains that to get a better understanding of how viruses manipulate the host and escape harm, you need to see the host and viral proteins together.

“A protein structure on it’s own doesn’t tell you the full story. With a structure in complex with another protein, then you’re starting to look at real interfaces,” he says.

“We can literally see what is important to the virus, and this information can be used to focus drug development”.

Before returning to Australia, David studied how viruses engaged with the nuclear pore to gain entry into the nucleus at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK – where the first protein crystal structure was solved. This work will continue in collaboration with the team led by Dr Leo James.

David’s team at SMS – Structural Virology – will focus more on the earlier interactions before the virus reaches the nucleus, and expand the research to other viruses including Hendra, Hepatitis B and Nipah viruses.

With existing groups at SMS, David is excited to now be able to investigate the effect of host proteins on viral stability, and also screen for interacting protein pairs to identify viral proteins involved in disarming the host immune response.

For David, SMS is an exciting place to work because the researchers are an engaging group keen to share their ideas, and UNSW is making a great investment into structural biology.

“This is the premier place to do this kind of work,” says David.

Date Published: 
Thursday, 4 January 2018