I am interested in membrane-associated processes and my project focuses on deciphering the molecular mechanisms of Herpes simplex virus I cell entry. My background is in biochemistry and I did my PhD working on proteins of the nuclear pore complex and how their interaction with the nuclear membrane influences the assembly and function of these transporters.
One of the fundamental cell biological mechanisms is membrane fusion, as it permits a plethora of diverse processes necessary for development and viral entry as well as intracellular transport. Herpes Simplex Virus I employs a set of transmembrane proteins on the viral surface in order to enter cells. The initial membrane approximation is typically achieved by cellular receptor binding followed by insertion of hydrophobic fusion loops, located on the transmembrane glycoproteins on the viral surface. This insertion probably causes deformation and further approximation leading to the formation of the hemifusion stalk and, by conformational changes of the glycoproteins, to a fusion pore connecting the two opposing membranes. By structural and biochemical analysis of this complex I will reveal details of the general mechanism of membrane fusion. To do so I am combining state-of-the-art cryo electron microscopy and tomography with biochemical reconstitution methods and biophysical analyses. My work is funded by an individual Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship under the Horizon 2020 - Research and Innovation Framework Programme.