Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human herpesvirus of increasing medical importance. EBV infection has been associated with the development of several human cancers. In immunocompromised individuals, such as organ transplant recipients or AIDS patients, EBV almost certainly causes two fatal cancers: post-transplantation lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) and AIDS-associated central nerve system (CNS) lymphoma. Other than cancers, EBV is associated with other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or lupus) as well as multiple sclerosis (MS). Our main interests are the host-herpesvirus interactions, and our research will be a blend of virology, molecular and cellular biology, immunology, and pathology. The major focuses are:
- The functions and regulations of IRFs in EBV transformation -- Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) are a small family of transcriptional factors with multiple functions including but not limited to host defense, oncogenesis, apoptosis, viral latency, as well as immune responses. Dr. Zhang was the first to discover the interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF-7), to identify the first functional interferon stimulated response element (ISRE) in a mammalian viral promoter, and to unearth a novel signal pathway related to IRF7 and EBV latency and transformation. EBV transforms human primary B cells in tissue culture and establishes latency. We are taking both genetic and biochemical manipulations to dissect the involvement of cellular factors and signaling pathways in the regulation of IRFs and their roles in EBV-mediated oncogenesis.
- Interaction between host immunity and herpesvirus -- The host immune system is essential for the initial detection of invading viruses and subsequent activation of adaptive immunity. IRFs play critical roles in host immunity against virus, and at the same time, the viruses have a variety of mechanisms to alleviate adverse effects of the host immune system. EBV and another herpesvirus (Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, KSHV, also called human herpesvirus 8, HHV8), have intrinsic relations with host immune system. Furthermore, EBV is closely associated with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. We are studying the relation among herpesvirus, immunity, and IRFs for their roles in viral replication, pathogenesis in cancer and autoimmune diseases.
- Genetic modification and personalize human induced pluripotent stem cells -- Human Induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) have enormous experimental, diagnostic and therapeutic potential. The iPSC technology eliminates the ethical concerns attached to embryonic stem cells and is able to provide person- and patient-specific PSCs. However, there are many unresolved questions related to the iPSC technology. These include the target cell types, the choice of factors to reprogram cells, as well as the methods to deliver and/or remove these factors. We are interested in generating a personalized hiPSC genetic system for modification of hiPSC for wide variety of applications.