Electron microscope image of mouse leukaemia virus-like particles containing a faulty p12 protein.

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Retroviruses cause severe diseases, including immunodeficiency and cancer. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the most widely known retrovirus due to its impact on human health. The latest figures (WHO/UNAIDS 2015) report that over 36 million people globally are living with HIV/AIDS.

Innovative therapeutics for retroviral diseases will hopefully arise from a better understanding of how retroviruses reproduce in the cell, how they interact with host cell factors and how they subvert the host innate and adaptive immune systems. The early stages of the retroviral life cycle are particularly attractive therapeutic targets, with several anti-retroviral drugs and cellular anti-viral factors inhibiting these steps. However, numerous events that occur during these stages are still poorly understood. The three main projects in our laboratory aim to characterise the molecular events that occur once a retrovirus has entered a cell in order to fully understand retroviral replication and provide potential ways in which to manipulate these processes for the benefit of human health.

The retroviral life cycle

Figure 1: The retroviral life cycle is arbitrarily divided into two phases, early and late. The stages in each phase are shown above. Interactions between viral and host cell factors occur at every stage of the viral life cycle, although many are still poorly understood. Identifying and understanding these interactions are key to developing new treatments to combat retroviral diseases. The steps inhibited by three retroviral restriction factors TRIM5alpha, APOBEC3G and Fv1 are also indicated. (RTC, reverse transcription complex; PIC, pre-integration complex)