Papillomaviruses (PVs) are etiologic agents of numerous benign and malignant tumors of the skin and mucosa. Benign warts include common, plantar, gential and respriatory warts (or papillomas). Malignant tumors include anogenital cancers, such as penile, anal, and cervical carcinomas and adenocarinomas, a growing proportion of oropharyngeal cancers, and certain non-melanoma skin malignancies.
The focus of research in my lab is on the differentiation-dependent life cycles of PVs and the mechanisms by which the life cycles can become disrupted and progress to malignancies. Primarily our group focuses on human papillomaviruses (HPVs), but we also study some animal papillomaviruses as model systems. In particular, we have been developing a rhesus monkey model of papillomavirus-induced genital infection and disease. RhPV1 causes genital neoplasias and malignancies in rhesus monkeys and we determining if this system can be used to study the pathogenesis of PV-induced anogenital lesions in vivo.
PVs require differentiating epithelium in order to complete their viral life cycles and we use the organotypic (raft) tissue culture system to cultivate differentiating epithelium and study the life cycles of PVs in the laboratory.
The long-term goals of our research program are to elucidate the cellular and viral mechanisms that regulate the life cycle of PVs, and to understand the delicate virus-cell interactions that can become unbalanced, leading to malignancy. We are specifically interested in three areas of research with respect to PV infections and cancer: (i) Investigating the strategies of initial PV replication upon infection and the mechanisms for establishment of viral persistence; (ii) Identifying the step(s) of PV infection at which host range and tissue tropism are demonstrated; (iii) Defining the mechanisms by which HPV oncoprotein expression is regulated, in an effort to better understand epithelial biology and cancer progression.