Professor, Department Head of Biological Sciences. Gerald and Edna Mann Director of the Bindley Bioscience Center.
The Kuhn laboratory studies the replication of human RNA enveloped viruses that are known as alphaviruses and flaviviruses. These viruses, which include dengue, West Nile, hepatitis C, Sindbis, and Chikungunya, are responsible for significant human disease and are predominantly transmitted by insect vectors. Our tools are varied and include structural biology, molecular genetics, and biochemistry, as we seek to understand how structure enables function. Our interests parallel the important phases of the virus life cycle. Upon entry of a virus into a host cell, the environment of that cell promotes the disassembly of the virus leading to the release of its genome RNA. Viral proteins are made that redirect cellular machinery to establish sites for viral RNA synthesis, and concomitant virus particle assembly. Viruses are usually made in an inactive "immature" form that relies again on the host environment for 'maturation' and virion release. The mature virus is a complex macromolecular machine designed to withstand harsh external environments yet be sufficiently facile to enter and disassemble into new host cells. Using the knowledge obtained from studying these processes, we are pursuing strategies for intervention of virus disease, such as the development of anti-virals and vaccines.