Computational Biology Seminar Series for Undergraduates

Sponsored by the LSU College of Science, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Center for Computation & Technology and the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network

Targeting Virus DNA-packaging Motor


In this talk, I will go through how I began doing research in computational biology, and how others may also find research opportunities at LSU. I will also speak about the research I have been doing. Developing anti-viral drugs poses major difficulties due to the fact that viruses replicate by hijacking the host cell machinery. Therefore, finding suitable protein targets to inhibit the lifecycle of viruses without affecting the host is a challenging task. With the advent of genomics and proteomics, our understanding of the structure and function of viral proteins has greatly expanded leading to the successful development of new antiviral agents. These drugs can be classified based on the mechanism of interference with various stages of the virus lifecycle. The entry of the virus into host cells can be inhibited by interrupting the attachment (enfuvirtide), fusion (VIRIP), and uncoating of the virus (rimantadine). Another group of drugs interfere with viral replication and protein synthesis by inhibiting viral polymerases (acyclovir), nucleoside reverse transcriptases (tenofovis), and integrases (raltegravir). Drugs acting on viral spread (oseltamivir) prevent the release of virus particles from host cells. In addition, the assembly of viral capsids and DNA packaging hold a significant potential for drug development, however, compounds interrupting the assembly of viral particles are yet to be discovered. This is in part due to lack of molecular structures of many virus proteins. Our goal is to construct atomistic models of the entire DNA packaging machinery for selected members of the herpesvirus family, cytomegalovirus virus (CMV) and herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). These models will be subsequently used to identify putative target sites for pharmacotherapy focusing on terminase subunit 1, pUl89 (CMV), and pUl15 (HSV-1). Here, we describe structure modeling and functional annotation of homology- based models of pUl89 and pUl15, including the identification and characterization of putative binding sites for ATP and DNA. These confident models will be ultimately used to carry out structure-based virtual screening for the rational design of new antiviral agents.


I am a Sophomore at LSU majoring in Biochemistry. I am currently a member of tri-beta, and AED, and Global Brigades on campus. I have been volunteering as a Reading Friend at various elementary schools for the past two semesters. My research at the Computational and Systems Biology group since Spring 2016 has focused on the packaging motor in herpesvirus 1 (HSV-1). Using computational methods, I have created models of a viral protein in order to design drugs that can target the binding sites found on the protein.

Lana Thaljeh