Boon Lab Research


Influenza A virus is a collective name for a large number of different viruses that can infect birds and mammals. Humans are susceptible to a small subset of influenza A viruses; seasonal H1N1 and H3N2 viruses cause yearly epidemics and are associated with mild disease in healthy adults, while highly pathogenic influenza A viruses, like H5N1, induce severe disease and mortality in 60% of the reported cases. Pathogenesis or the ability to cause severe disease is the result of a complex interplay between the virus and the infected host. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms and determinants involved in pathogenesis. One program in the laboratory focuses on the role of viral proteins in mediating severe disease. Reverse genetics technology is used to create chimera influenza A viruses containing gene segments of two parent viruses with low and high pathogenic potential. In vitro and in vivo characterization of these novel chimera viruses will identify the influenza genes responsible for the disease phenotype. Another program is aimed at uncovering host proteins and protein networks involved in the life cycle of the virus. A combination of forward genetics using genetically diverse mouse strains, knockout mice, RNA interference and molecular techniques will be applied to study the role of host proteins on influenza virus biology. At the same time we are interested in studying the evolution of the virus and the effects of certain host proteins and host immunity on this process.