Research group Molecular Virology and Infection - Coordinator: Prof. MR Oggioni

The mission of the Research group Molecular Virology and Infection is to understand the basic molecular mechanisms driving the patho-physiology of interaction of viruses and bacteria with the human host, and to develop translational approaches to exploit this understanding for prevention and treatment.

Research themes

Repurposing of viral properties and functions: The unique viruses’ life cycle is tightly entangled to the molecular machinery of their hosts. This intimate and absolute dependency drives their unmatched efficiency and promotes an enormous functional biodiversity that can be repurposed in several ways. Active areas of investigation include viruses “domestication”, for their use as targeted and selective anti-cancer tools (oncolytic viruses, Menotti, 2020a ; Menotti, 2020b), and the exploitation of viral functions to create novel activities with therapeutical potential (i.e. control of molecular mechanisms leading to neurocognitive decline (Brandimarti 2017).

Viral evolution dynamics: Viruses evolve at a higher rate as compared to their host(s). Specific properties of the different viral replicative strategies and host-parasite interactions can drive or push viral evolution. Even viruses considered to be substantially stable can change, under selective pressure. The aim of the research is to follow, by means of molecular tools, in vitro viral evolution and to dissect the conditions which promote it.

Infection: The earliest events during infection are the encounter of bacteria and viruses with the innate and acquired immune response mechanisms and only exceptionally specific events occur which then will lead to localised or invasive infection. We have recently discovered that one such event is the replication of certain bacteria within tissue resident macrophages in the spleen (Ercoli 2018) and liver (Wanford 2021) (see 3D video of infected cell). The understanding of the molecular and cellular details in this interaction are predicted to provide novel approaches for prevention and treatment of infectious diseases (Carreno 2021).

Microbial epigenetics: The study of population dynamics in the host during carriage and infection have let us to discover processes of rapid phase variable mechanisms for epigenetic changes which change gene expression (Manso 2014). These phase variable methylation systems are present in many bacterial species (De Ste Croix 2017) and represent a novel model to investigate the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic gene regulation in procaryotes.

 

Lab members

Prof. Marco R. Oggioni, MD, Microbiologist, coordinator of the research themes "Infection" and "Microbial epigenetics"

Dr. Renato Brandimarti, PhD, co-coordinator of the research theme "Repurposing of viral properties and functions"

Dr. Laura Menotti, PhD,  co-coordinator of the research theme "Repurposing of viral properties and functions" and "Viral evolution dynamics"

Dr. Elisa Avitabile, PhD, co-coordinator of the research theme "Repurposing of viral properties and functions

Job openings (2) or internship projects (3)

  • 2022 Two-year Post-doc (Assegno di ricerca) on the PRIN project "Transition from asymptomatic colonization to disease by human respiratory-tract bacteria as a target for vaccines and antimicrobial therapy: The CoDiCo (colonisation to disease concepts)"
  • 2022 PhD (Dottorato di Ricerca) on the PRIN project "Transition from asymptomatic colonization to disease by human respiratory-tract bacteria as a target for vaccines and antimicrobial therapy: The CoDiCo (colonisation to disease concepts)"
  • Masters degree projects on all the research themes

Main publications

  • Carreno D, JJ Wanford, Z Jasiunaite, RG. Hames, WY Chung, AR. Dennison, K Straatman, L Martinez-Pomares, M Pareek, CJ Orihuela, MI Restrepo, WS Lim, PW Andrew, ER Moxon, MR Oggioni. 2021. Splenic macrophages as the source of bacteraemia during pneumococcal pneumonia. EBioMedicine. 2021 Oct 4;72:103601. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103601
  • Manso AS, MH Chai, JM Atack, L Furi, M De Ste Croix, R Haigh, C Trappetti, AD Ogunniyi, LK Shewell, M Boitano, TA Clark, J Korlach, M Blades, E Mirkes, AN Gorban, JC Paton, MP Jennings, MR Oggioni. 2014. A random six-phase switch regulates pneumococcal virulence via global epigenetic changes. Nature Commun. 5:5055 https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6055
  • Brandimarti, Renato, Gordon S. Hill, Jonathan D. Geiger, and Olimpia Meucci. “The Lipid Raft-Dwelling Protein US9 Can Be Manipulated to Target APP Compartmentalization, APP Processing, and Neurodegenerative Disease Pathogenesis.” Scientific Reports 7, no. 1 (08 2017): 15103. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-15128-8.
  • Menotti L, Avitabile E. Herpes Simplex Virus Oncolytic Immunovirotherapy: The Blossoming Branch of Multimodal Therapy. 2020a. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 5;21(21):8310. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21218310
  • Menotti L, Leoni V, Gatta V, Petrovic B, Vannini A, Pepe S, Gianni T, Campadelli-Fiume G. 2020b. oHSV Genome Editing by Means of galK Recombineering. Methods Mol Biol. 2020;2060:131-151. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-9814-2_7

 

Contacts