Retroviruses are unique among virus families in that they copy their RNA genome into a double-stranded DNA molecule which is then integrated into the chromosomes of the virus-infected cells. The study of retrovirus replication and pathogenesis is of great importance to both human and veterinary medicine. As examples of retroviruses that have a major impact on human health, we may mention human immunodeficiency viruses types 1 and 2 (HIV-1 and HIV-2, respectively) and human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLV). Animal retroviruses such as bovine leukemia virus (BLV), equine infectious anemia virus (EIAV), caprine arthritis and encephalitis virus (CAEV), feline leukemia vius (FLV), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), cause health problems in domestic animals or livestock.
The studies of our group are focused on retrovirus assembly, maturation and cell entry using the simian and feline immunodeficiency viruses (SIV and FIV, respectively) as models. In the late stages of the viral life cycle, the retroviral Gag polyprotein assembles into particles which then bud from the plasma membrane of the infected cells. By means of genetic and biochemical analyses, we investigate the processes of Gag transport to the cell surface, Gag interaction with the plasma membrane, particle assembly and genomic RNA packaging into virions. We are also interested in elucidating the molecular mechanism that underlies the incorporation of the viral envelope (Env) glycoprotein into virions. Moreover, we are characterizing the process of Env interaction with cellular receptors as well as the ability of this protein to mediate the fusion of the viral and cell membranes. These events are crucial for virus entry. Our long-term goal is to gain a better understanding of retroviral morphogenesis at the molecular level. The information stemming from our work may prove useful for the rational design of therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking retrovirus replication.
Address: Virology Laboratory; Universidad de Belgrano; Villanueva 1324, C1426BMJ Buenos Aires, Argentina.
email@example.com (Dr. Affranchino).
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