The majority of humans are infected with JC Polyomavirus (JCPyV), which establishes a lifelong, persistent infection in the kidney without symptoms. In immunocompromised hosts, such as individuals receiving immunomodulatory therapies for autoimmune diseases or those with HIV, the virus can spread from the kidney to the central nervous system and cause an infection in the brain and the fatal, demyelinating disease Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML).
Using a structural-functional approach, Melissa Maginnis, Ph.D., has identified the receptor motif required for JCPyV attachment to host cells and defined the molecular details of this interaction. Her research illustrates how the precise interactions between viruses and receptors initiate an infectious cycle and reveals how these steps impact the selection of target tissues and viral pathogenesis.
Maginnis is assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Maine. She received her Ph.D. in 2007 from Vanderbilt University and was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Walter Atwood at Brown University.