Research Group Virus Interaction Proteomics

The research group "Virus Interaction Proteomics" is driven by the motivation to understand the biochemical principles underlying virus infection of host cells. Studying the early phase of virus infection, i.e. the invasion of susceptible cells, is at the heart of our work. Using quantitative high resolution proteomics in combination with virological assays we investigate protein-protein interactions during virus entry. In the past years we have elucidated protein interactions and their role in hepatitis C virus (HCV) entry with a major focus on the HCV receptor CD81. This transmembrane protein is also an entry factor for malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and we address the role of CD81 interacting proteins in the malaria liver stage infection in collaboration with Olivier Silvie (INSERM, Paris). We ultimately strive to use knowledge on host entry factors to develop anti-infectives.

Expertise gained during our HCV work is currently guiding projects aiming at understanding the entry process of emerging and poorly characterized human pathogenic viruses of the alphavirus genus. With a focus on Chikungunya virus, we analyze host protein networks hijacked during cell entry. Tetraspanin-9 is an alphavirus entry factor and belongs to the same protein family as CD81. Therefore, we will compare protein networks of both tetraspanins to highlight similarities and differences. Finally, we will map protein networks triggered during virus binding to the cell surface. This will open new avenues not only towards drug development, but also towards the understanding of host and tissue tropism, important predictors of transmission and pathogenesis.

HCV chronically infects 71 million individuals worldwide with high prevalence rates in Western Africa where hemorrhagic fever viruses (HFV) such as Lassa virus are endemic. In collaboration with Stefan Kunz (CHUV, Switzerland) we investigate the impact of chronic hepatitis C on the outcome of HFV infection in cell culture model systems. This will help understand if chronic hepatitis C presents a risk for individuals encountering a secondary hepatotropic RNA virus infection.