The role of genome composition and the structure of mammalian RNA viruses on their host interactions, pathogenesis and transmission


  • Prof Peter Simmonds

    University of Edinburgh

Project summary

RNA viruses, which form the majority of emerging pathogens affecting humans and animals, are remarkably adapted to evade and inhibit powerful host cellular and systemic immune responses to infection. In addition to encoding specific immune-evasion proteins, RNA virus genomes display several compositional features, such as skewed dinucleotide frequencies, that profoundly modify interactions with cellular defence mechanisms. Professor Simmonds is launching a new area of research to understand recognition mechanisms and the role of these global configurations in the pathogenesis, evolutionary fitness and transmission of RNA viruses. His approach is to investigate why and how certain sequence motifs in the genome are selected over evolutionary time and what fitness trade-offs are involved from a virus point of view. Newly discovered methods to accelerate or attenuate RNA virus replication can be exploited in vaccine or transgene technology.