Our resarch objectives are the replication strategies and reverse transcription mechanisms of foamy viruses and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the causative agent of aquired immunodeficiency syndrom (AIDS).
Foamy Viruses are also members of the family retroviridae. However, their replication strategy is somewhat different to that of HIV. Reverse transcription takes place in the host cell, leading to virus particles that contain DNA instead of RNA. This step is performed by the viral enzyme reverse transcriptase. Because of the unusual replication strategy of foamy viruses we are interested in the structure and function of the enzyme responsible for reverse transcription. The reverse transcriptase of Simian Foamy Virus SFV-1 harbors the viral protease, polymerase and RNase H domain and thus differs from the domain structure of other retrovirus types. In collaboration with Dr. Jochen Bodem, University of Würzburg, the structure and function of Foamy Virus reverse transcriptase and interacting factors is analyzed by a combination of NMR, biophysical, biochemical and virological methods. These analyses will give us further information on the complex replication cycle of foamy viruses.
Although various inhibitor classes are available to treat but not cure HIV infections the occurrence of resistant viruses requires the development of new inhibitors. We use NMR and biochemical approaches to characterize resistance mechanisms and to analyze the interaction of new drugs with relevant target proteins.
Finally, we are interested in the complex regulation of retroviral transcription by viral and cellular factors, including the cellular transcription factors NELF and DSIF.