Mentor: Dr. Ben Dunn
College of Medicine
"I first became involved with research to learn more about microbiology and other topics that I am interested in beyond the classroom. So far it has helped me do just that and gain a better understanding of the material that I have learned in class. I have also gained many practical skills like sharing and communicating ideas, thinking critically, solving problems, and time management. I applied to the University Scholars program in order to take on a more active role in my lab. I also hope to gain new experiences that will help me with my future endeavors to become a physician and to develop the project that I have begun working on further."
Microbiology and Cell Science
Nutritional Sciences, Business Administration
- HIV Gag-Pol Polyprotein
- HIV Protease
Heal the World
Alpha Epsilon Delta
- Sydney Lanier Fitness Program
- Alpha Epsilon Delta Service (TOP Soccer, Project Makeover, Ronald McDonald House, Boys and Girls Club
- Pleasant Place
Hobbies and Interests
- Outdoor Activities
Cleavage Characterization of HIV-1 Protease GagPol Precursor
The role of HIV-1 protease is being studied at the GagPol precursor stage in hopes of discovering a new target for drugs. The Gag portion of the precursor provides the basic structural proteins of the virus including the matrix, capsid, and nucleocapsid. The Pol portion of the precursor contains the information to create the viral protease, reverse transcriptase, and integrase by which the retrovirus reproduces. Inhibiting the protease-catalyzed processing of the GagPol precursor will in turn inhibit the creation of the new infectious virion particles. Therefore, this may serve as another target for development of protease inhibitors. It is clear that precursor processing has a large role in viral replication and spread of infection throughout the body. These precursors create the proteins and structure of the virus. Unfortunately, the mechanisms involved with the cleavages that create these precursors are not clearly understood. It is known that GagPol is translated due to a translational frameshift that occurs during reading of mRNA by the ribosome; as a result, the reading frame shifts back one nucleotide and reads through a stop codon to produce the gag-pol polyprotein precursor of about 160 kDa. The first cleavages that occur by the protease on GagPol in order to spread the virus are done intramolecularly. The protease in a GagPol precursor is not very sensitive to an inhibitor drug, such as saquinavir, so cleavages are still able to occur within the GagPol precursor. This project is aimed at ultimately discovering where on the GagPol precursor these intramolecular cleavages occur in order to stop them by studying structural aspects of the cleavage process using fluorescence energy transfer.