The role of CpG dinucleotides in regulating virus replication kinetics

Year of award: 2018


  • Dr Eleanor Gaunt

    University of Edinburgh

Project summary

Studying the genetic code reveals patterns made by the four building blocks of our genetic make-up (adenine cytosine guanine and thymine – A, C, G and T). For example, in the human genome, G hardly ever follows C. The avoidance of CG is mimicked in the genomes of viruses that cause infections because too many CGs activate the immune response, via a protein called ZAP. There are two discrete regions in the genome of influenza A virus (IAV) that have high numbers of CG. These two regions are exclusively edited by the host cell machinery.

I will identify which proteins of an infected cell interact with these regions and characterise how ZAP affects IAV replication, by making cells that don't have ZAP and determining how viruses replicate in them. I will also characterise the differences between human and chicken ZAP to understand how IAV jumps between these hosts.

My findings will help us understand the genetic mechanisms behind influenza infections which could help develop treatments and vaccines.