My laboratory is studying the molecular biology of economically important fish viruses and focuses on viral pathogenesis and development of novel vaccines.
Current research in my laboratory has focused on two fish rhabdoviruses - infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) and viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV), which are members of the genus Novirhabdovirus of the Rhabdoviridae family. Their genome is composed of approximately 11-kb of single-stranded RNA, which contains six genes that are located along the genome in the 3' to 5' order: 3'-N-P-M-G-NV-L-5', nucleocapsid protein (N), polymerase-associated phosphoprotein (P), matrix protein (M), surface glycoprotein (G), a unique non-virion protein (NV) and virus polymerase (L). IHNV and VHSV infect a number of fresh and saltwater fish worldwide and cause a highly contagious disease. Recently a novel genotype of VHSV, designated IVb, has invaded the Great Lakes in North America, causing large-scale epidemics in wild fish. We established the reverse genetics systems for both IHNV and VHSV whereby infectious rhabdovirus can be recovered entirely from cDNA clones. Using the reverse genetics approach, we are investigating the function of viral proteins in virulence, host adaptation, pathogenesis, and creating attenuated viruses with vaccine potential against other fish pathogens.
Nervous necrosis virus (NNV) and infectious pancreatic necrosis virus (IPNV) are pathogens of economic importance to the aquaculture industry. NNV causes viral encephalopathy and retinopathy in more than 30 species of marine warm-water and cold-water fish, whereas IPNV causes pancreatic necrosis disease in salmon and trout species. We are particularly interested in developing oral vaccines for these pathogens which could be suited to large-scale aquaculture operations. To this end, we have expressed the major host-protective genes of these viruses in suitable expression systems and seek to develop virus-like particles (VLPs) based vaccines that could be fed orally to fish.
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