Print by Debbie Covarrubias
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Puerto Vallarta Beach
Glaunsinger lab-2014


The Glaunsinger lab studies the creative strategies viruses use to manipulate gene expression in host cells.  Our primary focus is RNA-based regulation of gene expression, including both transcriptional and posttranscriptional control.  We are interested in viral factors that directly target RNA, as well as how viruses interface with and usurp cellular pathways to control gene expression.  We study these events using gamma-herpesviruses such as Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, which is a major cause of AIDS-associated cancers. We anticipate that these studies will enhance our understanding of virus-host interactions, as well as provide insight into how gene expression pathways are normally regulated in human cells.

Britt Named 2015 HHMI Investigator!!

HHMI celebration
Read about our work, and that of the other new HHMI investigators here:

Research Highlight #1

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Nearly half of the mammalian genome is composed of transposable elements, which are silent—at least most of the time. However, a subset of these elements that do not encode for any proteins, termed short interspersed nuclear repeats, or SINEs, can get activated in response to viral infection. Postdoc John Karijolich has found that these SINE RNAs might have been co-opted by cells as an early warning system to alert the cell of a potential incoming virus. While this may help guard the cell against certain types of viruses, it turns out to be a double-edged sword during gammaherpesvirus infection, as they have evolved to subvert and benefit from pathways activated by SINE RNAs.

Research Highlight #2

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Most of us think about gene expression as a linear series of events starting with mRNA synthesis in the nucleus and ending with mRNA degradation after translation in the cytoplasm. However, by manipulating mRNA abundance in the cytoplasm--something herpesviruses do very efficiently--we are finding surprising interconnectivity in the gene expression cascade. In a paper recently published in Cell Host & Microbe (with an accompanying preview article), Emma Abernathy and Sarah Gilbertson discover an mRNA degradation-synthesis feedback loop in mammalian cells. They show that cells in which mRNA decay in the cytoplasm is accelerated send a signal to the nucleus to reduce transcription, indicating that overall mRNA abundance is somehow "sensed" in cells. In mammals, large changes in mRNA abundance appear to be interpreted as a stress or threat, leading the cell to further restrict gene expression at the level of transcription. In a clever twist of fate, viral genes (which use the same transcription machinery as the cell) somehow manage to escape this repression, and thus likely benefit from the feedback mechanism.

TWiV Comes to Berkeley!

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Vincent Racaniello, the host of the awesome This Week in Virology (TWiV) podcast, visited UC Berkeley! Check out the live podcast at the Microbiology Student Symposium featuring our research~

Lab Location

Li Ka Shing Building photo
Our lab is located in the UC Berkeley Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical Sciences, on a floor dedicated to infectious disease research. Check out our awesome new space, which includes amazing views of the bay and the beautiful Berkeley campus!
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