Louis M. Mansky

Professor and Director of Institute for Molecular Virology

Research Summary

Human cancer virology; AIDS research; human retroviruses; virus mutagenesis and evolution; virus particle assembly and transmission; antiviral drug target identification; virus-host interactions.To the casual observer, Virology is typically viewed as a narrow sub-discipline in the field of Microbiology. In reality, Virology is an integrated and highly interdisciplinary discipline that has had a profound impact on our understanding of the biological and physical sciences, engineering, agriculture, and the health sciences. For example, some of the most transformative advancements in improving human health have come from basic science investigations of viruses for the development of intervention strategies – e.g., antiviral drugs and vaccines – to help treat, prevent and eradicate devastating diseases. Current understanding of the molecular genetic basis of diseases such as cancer is predicated on investigations of cancer-causing viruses. The foundations of modern molecular biology and genetics are based upon studies conducted with bacterial viruses, and continue to provide critical clues to foundational knowledge of molecular and cellular processes. Viruses have been used as tools to better understand biological systems and have been exploited time and time again as delivery systems for various types of ‘cargoes’ into cells and whole organisms.Our research group is heavily invested in harnessing state-of-the-art technologies (both experimental and computational) in advancing the key research questions, including a fundamental understanding of 1) viral mutagenesis and evolution (and therapeutic implications), 2) molecular and cellular aspects of virus particle assembly and transmission (and therapeutic implications). We primarily study the human retroviruses – human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV; cause of an adult T-cell leukemia) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; cause of AIDS). We also conduct comparative studies with a variety of other viruses. Key interdisciplinary technologies we are currently employing span from quantitative imaging techniques (e.g., fluorescence microscopy at single molecule resolution, cryo-transmission electron tomography) to ultrasensitive, next-generation DNA sequencing (e.g., single-strand consensus sequencing) to large data informatics analyses (sensitive mutation detection bioinformatics analyses, 3D-reconstructions of virus particle structure). An important aspect of our research is understanding the fundamental virus-host interactions that are crucial for virus replication, virus transmission and viral pathogenesis.Our research group is strongly committed to the career development of predoctoral and postdoctoral students, in order to prepare them for careers in today’s workplace, which can lead in a whole variety of directions, including the directing of their own research programs. Our research group takes full advantage of the activities offered by the Institute for Molecular Virology and NIH-supported Institute for Molecular Virology Training Program.Publications from our research group can be found in PubMed.