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Molecular Virology

How to develop methods for preventing and treating diseases such as AIDS (HIV) or leukaemia (BLV, HTLV)?

AIDS and leukaemia

The laboratory of Molecular Virology is studying the transcriptional regulation of three retroviruses, HIV-1 (Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1), HTLV-I (Human T-cell leukemia virus I) and BLV (Bovine Leukemia Virus), with a special emphasis on the role played by chromatin structure and by histone and non-histone proteins modifications.

Infection by these retroviruses is characterized by viral latency in the large majority of infected cells and by the absence of viremia (in the cases of HTLV-I and BLV).

These features are throught to be due to the transcriptional repression of viral expression in vivo, but the molecular mechanisms involved in such a repression are not fully elucidated.

These three retroviruses encode a protein called Tat, TaxHTLV-1 and TaxBLV, respectively involved in trans-activation of long terminal repeat (LTR)-directed gene expression.

This laboratory is studying the role played by chromatin modifications (histone acetylation, histone methylation and DNA methylation) in latency/reactivation of HIV-1, BLV and HTLV-I. These epigenetic modifications could be one mechanism by which these viruses escape the host immune response and, in the case of HTLV-I/BLV, allow tumor development.

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