Viruses are among the most frequent causes of acute and chronic illness, and newly discovered viruses continue to cause emergent diseases that resist established vaccines. Despite the scope of this problem, the accuracy of diagnosis and efficacy of treatment for most viral infections, especially new types of infections, is very limited in effectiveness. To address this issue, we have developed an alternative strategy that is aimed at defining and then improving the antiviral host response. We focus particularly on respiratory infection since this is a common route of natural infection and a likely route for delivery of bioterrorist threats. In that regard, we have developed a system for primary-culture and infection of human airway epithelial cells that exhibits high fidelity to behavior found in vivo. Our analysis of this epithelial cell model in concert with a corresponding mouse model indicates that antiviral defense against respiratory viral infection depends critically on interferon (IFN) activation of the Stall signaling molecule in airway epithelial cells. Based on these findings, we proposed that improving Stall function in airway epithelial cells would enhance antiviral defense. Accordingly, we engineered a modified Stall with strategic double-cysteine mutalions (designaled Slal1-CC) that is hyperresponsive to endogenous interferon levels. Expression of Stall-CC should thereby enhance interferon-signaling function and provide for better control of viral replication. Indeed, our Preliminary Studies demonstrate that Stall-CC expression markedly decreases Ihe level of viral replication both in vitro (using transduced cells) and in vivo (using transgenic or gene transfer technology). For example, mice carrying the Stall-CC transgene or treated with a Stall-CC gene-transfer vector are fully protected against otherwise lethal infections due to each of the three viruses studied thus far. Furthermore, we have observed no toxicities of Stall-CC expression, in contrast to the situation for direct administralion or overexpression of interferon itself. In this proposal, we aim to extend our approach to the study of emergent pathogens with the capability for epidemic spread through the human population. In doing so, we aim to establish infection capabilities and diagnostic signatures for these new viruses, a new therapeutic strategy for these pathogens, and a better understanding of innate immunity to these agents.

Public Health Relevance

In this proposal, we aim to answer two questions that are important for public health: (1) what is the capability of newly discovered and dangerous viruses to cause a respiratory infection in humans;and (2) can we develop a system for better diagnosis and treatment to improve the outcome from these types of infections? Accordingly, we have devised a cellular and molecular approach that has already worked to improve the outcome from viral infections in the laboratory setting. We now aim to extend this strategy to new types of viruses that pose major threats for epidemic spread and bioterrorism in the human population. We should thereby provide new diagnostics and therapeutics for practical use against these new types of infections.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Specialized Center--Cooperative Agreements (U54)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAI1)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Washington University
Saint Louis
United States
Zip Code
Stevenson, Taylor C; Cywes-Bentley, Colette; Moeller, Tyler D et al. (2018) Immunization with outer membrane vesicles displaying conserved surface polysaccharide antigen elicits broadly antimicrobial antibodies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:E3106-E3115
Kinkead, Lauren C; Whitmore, Laura C; McCracken, Jenna M et al. (2018) Bacterial lipoproteins and other factors released by Francisella tularensis modulate human neutrophil lifespan: Effects of a TLR1 SNP on apoptosis inhibition. Cell Microbiol 20:
Kinkead, Lauren C; Fayram, Drew C; Allen, Lee-Ann H (2017) Francisella novicida inhibits spontaneous apoptosis and extends human neutrophil lifespan. J Leukoc Biol 102:815-828
Zhao, Guoyan; Wu, Guang; Lim, Efrem S et al. (2017) VirusSeeker, a computational pipeline for virus discovery and virome composition analysis. Virology 503:21-30
Das, Anshuman; Hirai-Yuki, Asuka; González-López, Olga et al. (2017) TIM1 (HAVCR1) Is Not Essential for Cellular Entry of Either Quasi-enveloped or Naked Hepatitis A Virions. MBio 8:
Grinnage-Pulley, Tara; Mu, Yang; Dai, Lei et al. (2016) Dual Repression of the Multidrug E?ux Pump CmeABC by CosR and CmeR in Campylobacter jejuni. Front Microbiol 7:1097
Ulland, Tyler K; Jain, Nidhi; Hornick, Emma E et al. (2016) Nlrp12 mutation causes C57BL/6J strain-specific defect in neutrophil recruitment. Nat Commun 7:13180
Markosyan, Ruben M; Miao, Chunhui; Zheng, Yi-Min et al. (2016) Induction of Cell-Cell Fusion by Ebola Virus Glycoprotein: Low pH Is Not a Trigger. PLoS Pathog 12:e1005373
Teijaro, John R; Studer, Sean; Leaf, Nora et al. (2016) S1PR1-mediated IFNAR1 degradation modulates plasmacytoid dendritic cell interferon-? autoamplification. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:1351-6
Lubman, Olga Y; Fremont, Daved H (2016) Parallel Evolution of Chemokine Binding by Structurally Related Herpesvirus Decoy Receptors. Structure 24:57-69

Showing the most recent 10 out of 338 publications