Congratulations are in order for Dr. Lei Wei, who won the highly coveted “Best Talk by Postdoctoral Researcher” prize at the Princeton University Annual Molecular Biology Departmental Retreat this year! His talk, which had the riveting title “Making a murderer – Formation of hepatitis B virus cccDNA”, featured his recent work identifying host factors necessary for the formation of HBV cccDNA.
Congratulations also to Ila, who presented a poster on her work titled “Isocotoin Potently Inhibits Hepatitis E Virus Replication through Interference with Heat Shock Protein 90”!
The retreat was held in the beachside town of Avalon, New Jersey, and the whole lab enjoyed learning about the science happening in our department. We thank the Princeton University Molecular Biology Department, in particular Terry MacFarland, for organizing this consistently wonderful event every year.
Alex has been busy this month promoting the Ploss Lab’s work far and wide! On September 13th, he gave two talks in Japan: the first titled “Deciphering host range restrictions of human viral pathogens” at the 18th Awaji International Forum on Infection and Immunity in Awaji Island, and the second titled “New insights into hepatitis E virus” at the Institute for Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Osaka.
We are very excited to welcome back a familiar face! Jiayu Zhang, who was previously a visiting student in the Ploss lab, has returned as a rotation student this fall! Jiayu completed his M.Sc. in Cell Biology at Zhejiang University School of Medicine in June 2019, and he is now a first-year graduate student in the Princeton University Department of Molecular Biology. He will be continuing his work on yellow fever virus in the Ploss Lab and starting a new project characterizing clinical isolates of dengue virus during his rotation. We are very happy to have him back!
Congratulations to Stephanie for her commentary in Hepatology Elsewhere, titled “Master of disguise: hepatitis delta virus packaging and spread facilitated by diverse viral envelope proteins.” The commentary discusses a recent paper published by Perez-Vargas et al. in Nature Communications, where it was found that HDV can use envelope proteins from viruses other than HBV for packaging. Stephanie’s commentary can be found here.
Congratulations to DOCTOR Jenna Gaska, who on August 29th defended her thesis titled “Molecular determinants of hepatitis C virus species tropism!” Jenna is the second doctoral student to receive her PhD in the Ploss lab, and she graduates with nine publications, plus one currently in review.
We are so proud of Jenna for her work on HCV tropism in vitro, which has led to many interesting discoveries in the field, and for learning bioinformatics (from scratch!) as a tool to analyze RNAseq data. Additionally, Jenna is an excellent editor and writer and has helped Ploss lab members with countless manuscript drafts and grant proposals. We are extremely proud of you, Jenna!
A selected list of Jenna’s publications from the Ploss lab:
Winer BY, Gaska JM, Lipkowitz G, et al. Analysis of host responses to hepatitis B and delta viral infections in a micro-scalable hepatic co-culture system. Hepatology. 2019.
Gaska JM, Balev M, Ding Q, Heller B, Ploss A. Differences across cyclophilin A orthologs contribute to the host range restriction of hepatitis C virus. Elife. 2019.
Gaska JM, Ding Q, Ploss A. Mouse Models for Studying HCV Vaccines and Therapeutic Antibodies. Methods Mol Biol. 2019;1911:481-503.
Ding Q, Gaska JM, Douam F, et al. Species-specific disruption of STING-dependent antiviral cellular defenses by the Zika virus NS2B3 protease. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2018;115(27):E6310-E6318.
Douam F, Gaska JM, Winer BY, Ding Q, Von schaewen M, Ploss A. Genetic Dissection of the Host Tropism of Human-Tropic Pathogens. Annu Rev Genet. 2015;49:21-45.
Gaska JM, Ploss A. Study of viral pathogenesis in humanized mice. Curr Opin Virol. 2015;11:14-20.
A warm welcome to Javi, a visiting student from Spain who will be working in the Ploss lab during the fall semester. Javi holds a veterinary degree and currently studies HEV epidemiology at the University of Cordoba. He will be investigating the determinants of HEV tropism in the Ploss lab.
Says Javi, “I am really excited to be in Princeton working with this fantastic group!” (His words, not ours!)
Congratulations to Robbie, Ila, and Alex, who published a review paper describing the current understanding and remaining knowledge gaps on the mechanisms of HEV replication! The publication can be found here.
Congratulations to Alex and Robbie, who were awarded a grant from the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University! The grant will support Robbie’s project titled “Characterization of Host Responses to Usutu Virus Infection across Different Vertebrate and Insect Species.”
This summer, we were fortunate to have two undergraduate students spend 10 weeks working full-time in the Ploss Lab! Besides being a great help with ongoing projects, this spunky duo taught us about the latest YouTube trends and became a part of summer Ploss Lab lunch excursions. Their summer program concluded this week, and they presented their work at the SURP MOL/QCB Poster Session on Thursday, August 8th.
Leslie Chan (Princeton University, Class of 2020)
Characterizing the role of DNA ligase I in hepatitis B virus cccDNA formation
Mentor: Lei Wei
Celeste Claudio (Princeton University, Class of 2020)
Characterization of an Usutu virus infectious cDNA clone and its putative viral protease
Mentor: Robbie LeDesma
Great job to Leslie and Celeste on your projects this summer!
On July 29th, we welcomed Dr. Yongzhen Liu to the Ploss Lab! Yongzhen comes from the Department of Microbiology and Infectious Disease Center at Peking University Health Science Center in Beijing, China. He completed his dissertation and Ph.D. in July 2019, studying HBV and HCC. In the Ploss lab, he will be working on HBV and HBV/HIV co-infection. We are very pleased to have Yongzhen join the lab!