Positions

Associate Professor
Virol & Micro: Ling
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, TX, US
Member
Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas, United States

Education

Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School Of Medicine
PhD from USUHS F. Edward Hebert School Of Medicine
BA from St. Olaf College

Honors & Awards

Graduated Cum Laude
National Research Service Award for individual postdoctoral fellows
Leukemia Society of America Special Fellow Award
Secretary
Certificate of Appreciation
Associate Editor
Member
Chair

Professional Interests

  • Gammaherpesvirus gene regulation and pathogenesis
  • Elephant Endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV)

Professional Statement

Herpesviruses are ubiquitous in nature. Once an animal is infected, these viruses establish long-term chronic infections during the remaining lifespan of that animal. Although generally benign, herpesviruses can cause a variety of diseases, including cancer. The Ling laboratory studies the biology and molecular biology of gammaherpesviruses, a subfamily of herpesviruses that are associated with several malignancies in humans and other animals. In addition, beginning in 2009, the Ling laboratory established a unique collaboration with the Houston zoo to investigate the elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), which can cause lethal hemorrhagic disease in endangered Asian elephants.

In order to establish robust infection in an animal, viruses must navigate through several layers of host defenses, including those that are constitutively present in cells and are known as intrinsic host defense mechanisms. In particular, nuclear organelles known as Promelocytic Nuclear Bodies (PML NBs) contain several host cell proteins that mediate intrinsic host defenses against herpesviruses. Herpesviruses have correspondingly evolved mechanisms to counteract the antiviral effects of PML NBs. We are interested in determining how gammaherpesviruses evade host cell defenses mediated by PML NBs and the importance of these mechanisms for establishment of long-term chronic infections in animals. To address this, we recently determined that murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68) mediates an efficient proteasome dependent degradation of PML, which is carried out by the viral tegument protein ORF75c. We are currently using strategically generated mutant viruses and utilizing PML knock-out mice to address the fundamental role of how PML NBs modulate herpesvirus infections.

EEHV is the leading cause of death in juvenile Asian elephants born in North America and is a major factor impeding efforts to establish robust breeding groups in captivity. The disease is also known to affect Asian elephants in range countries. This “Bench to Barn” project is practically oriented and has three phases: 1) diagnostics, 2) treatments, and 3) vaccines. Progress towards these goals has been made through sequencing the EEHV genome, development of qPCR diagnostic assays, and developing tools to measure elephant immune responses.

Memberships

American Society for Virology
American Society for Microbiology
Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) Advisory Committee
Epstein-Barr Virus Association