We are investigating the role of host translation factors in viral infection in plants, specifically with the interaction of Triticum Mosaic Virus (TriMV) and its wheat host. Because viruses are obligate intracellular pathogens with small genomes, they completely rely on their host to provide translation factors to complete the viral life cycle. If a virus is unable to recruit host translation initiation factors to its RNA template, the viral life cycle and infection is halted.
Some viruses are better competitors than others in recruiting these translation initiation factors. Some viruses, including TriMV, contain an Internal Ribosome Entry Site (IRES) in their 5’ untranslated region which eliminates the need for a 5’ m7GpppG RNA cap and therefore the need for some translation factors. Some viral IRESes are also more efficient at recruiting ribosomes than cellular mRNAs. We have shown that TriMV contains a strong IRES in its 5’ UTR that promotes viral translation at a higher level than other known plant virus IRESes. In fact, some elements of the TriMV IRES mimic mammalian virus IRESes in both RNA behavior and structure. Robyn’s research is focused on investigating which translation factors the TriMV IRES requires from its host that makes it a strong competitor in viral infection.
Ph.D. (in progress), Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.S. (2011), Biology, Indiana University- Bloomington
Plant Pathology Graduate Colloquium (PPGC): http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/ppgc/