WHAT WE DO
Mammalian cells resist viruses through a collection of mechanisms termed innate or intrinsic immunity. These differ from the classical adaptive immune response in which B, T helper and cytolytic T cells recognize foreign antigens and clonally expand upon engagement of their antigen receptor. Intrinsic and innate mechanisms are more generalized. They act in many different cell types; some are constitutively active and others are induced by type-I interferon. Some are activated by toll-like receptors or related proteins that warn the cell of the presence of a foreign invader by sensing the viral RNA or DNA. Over the course of evolution, viruses viruses have developed remarkable and diverse ways to escape innate immune responses. A major focus of our research is to understand how innate immune mechanisms restrict retrovirus replication and how viruses counteract them. We have focused on two of these factors, APOBEC3 and SAMHD1 and how they are counteracted by viral accessory proteins Vpx, Vpr and Vif. We are interested to identify new host restriction factors and to understand how cells sense the presence of invading pathogens. Ultimately, we want to use this understanding to devise therapeutic strategies that mobilize the immune system to target HIV. We are using the same knowledge to mobilize the immune system to fight cancer.