New insights into viral nuclear trafficking

Viruses are responsible for many of the world's most serious diseases. In Canada, viral infections remain the single most common reason that people seek medical attention. In order to spread infection, many viruses replicate themselves in the nucleus of their host cells. To accomplish this, they must transport their genome into the nucleus – a process known as nuclear trafficking. Today, many aspects of this viral replication and initial entry into cells are well understood at the molecular level. However, very little is known about how viruses deliver their genetic material into the nucleus. Interrupting the trip into the nucleus could prevent the virus from spreading. A detailed description of this process is an important step to developing anti-viral therapy.

Dr. Nelly Panté studies the mechanism by which viruses deliver their genomes into the nucleus of their host cells. In particular, she is focusing on two common and important viruses: Influenza A and Hepatitis B virus. To investigate the trafficking of these viruses, Panté uses a combination of structural, functional, biochemical, and genetic approaches. As well, she uses high-resolution electron microscopy to track the virus’ movement and entry into host cell nuclei. This work is critical for complete understanding of viral infections – not only for targeting viral illnesses, but also for their potential application in gene-delivery technology, such as in anti-cancer gene therapy.