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Xiangzhi Meng, M.D.,Ph.D.
Tel: (210) 567-0885
Fax: (210) 567-6612
Ph.D. National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese center for Disease Control and Prevention.
MD. Jining Medical University, Shandong, P.R. China
Description of research interest:
Poxviruses include some dangerous emerging or re-emerging pathogens as well as some promising vaccine vectors for infectious diseases and cancers. Vaccinia virus is the prototypical poxvirus and serves as the vaccine for smallpox. The primary research focus of our laboratory is on vaccinia virus.
Poxviruses are unique among viruses in that they encode a large number of proteins that are dedicated to evading host immune responses. These proteins include secreted inhibitors of cytokines as well as intracellular inhibitors of immune signaling or antiviral factors. A major goal of our laboratory is to uncover the mechanisms of poxvirus immune evasion, which will reveal fundamental principles about virus-host interactions and provide knowledge for the development of vaccines and antivirals. We are studying several poxvirus immune evasion molecules, including a secreted poxvirus interleukin-18 (IL-18) binding protein, which prevents IL-18 from inducing interferon-y production, and two intracellular inhibitors of type I interferons, K1 and C7. K1 and C7 are also host-range factors essential for poxviruses replication in mammalian hosts and have been manipulated to generate safe vaccine vector. We are studying these poxvirus immune evasion molecules by using a multidisciplinary approach, including molecular virology, immunology, and protein crystallography.
Another focus of our laboratory is to decipher the complex cellular process involved in assembling vaccinia virus virions. Vaccinia virions are assembled in the cytoplasm within "virus factories" and require the biogenesis of lipid virion envelope from cellular organelles. We and other have recently discovered a group of nonstructural viral proteins that play essential and non-redundant roles in virion membrane biogenesis. We are currently using molecular genetics, biophysics, and cell-biology approaches to determine how these viral proteins work cooperatively to generate virion membranes. This will provide insight on how cellular membrane organelles are generated or re-organized in the cells, which are normal cellular processes often manipulated by pathogens.