John Connor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Microbiology
B.A. Swarthmore College
Ph.D. (Pharmacology) Duke University
Please also see here: www.connorlab.com
Protein synthesis is a central issue in virus replication. Though viruses absolutely need to make new proteins to replicate, they do not carry their own protein synthesis machinery. Instead, they utilize the protein synthethesis machinery of their host. My research interests are in understanding how a virus accomplishes this hostile takeover of the host machinery. I work with a prototype negative strand RNA virus, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) that is currently being developed as a potential antitumor agent. VSV turns off all host protein synthesis following infection, but the host protein synthesis machinery translates large amounts of viral protein. Using genetic, molecular biological, and rational mutagenesis approaches, we are investigating how VSV interacts with and dominates the host translation machinery. Our studies have shown an important role for multi-protein translation initiation complexes. Changes in the phosphorylation and makeup of these complexes correlates closely with the switch from host to viral protein synthesis. Currently the laboratory is working to determine how VSV infection is altering these complexes to favor viral translation. Our studies on VSV translation have also led us to the finding that VSV is capable of replicating under hypoxic cell stress, a difficult to treat microenvironment of solid tumors. We are currently developing new ways to use VSV as a means to target hypoxic tumor cells for destruction.