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Michael Imperiale

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Primary Appointment: Microbiology and Immunology
Primary PIBS Dept.: Microbiology and Immunology
Other PIBS Depts.: Cancer Biology
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 DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH
  Our laboratory studies the molecular biology of the small DNA tumor virus, BK polyomavirus. BKPyV is a ubiquitous human pathogen that establishes a subclinical, persistent infection of the urinary tract during early childhood in >90% of the population. In healthy individuals, the virus replicates periodically and is excreted into the urine but does not cause disease. In renal and bone marrow transplant patients, however viral replication causes severe and sometimes life threatening illnesses. We are interested in the interplay between viral and host cell factors that determine whether the virus will persist or replicate in the cell. On the host cell side, our current efforts are focused on cellular factors with which the virus interacts during infection. Towards this end, we are employing high throughput screening approaches towards discovering genes that are involved in either facilitating or interfering with infection. On the virus side, we are uncovering the genetic determinants on the viral chromosome that regulate the switch between persistence and active replication, including a virally-encoded microRNA that we have shown to play a key role in regulating replication. Since there are no effective antiviral drugs with which to treat transplant patients, we are hopeful that these studies will lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets.