More Changes

It has been a great year for HIV prevention research thus far. A trial studying early HIV treatment in Africa proved the long-held speculation that HIV treatment IS HIV prevention. Real-world circumcision data demonstrated that reductions in HIV incidence could be achieved outside of clinical trials. And two studies show that treating high-risk heterosexuals with anti-HIV drugs can substantially reduce HIV acquisition. Nonetheless, the need for an HIV vaccine remains strong. All of these interventions, save for circumcision, rely on consistent behavioral modification. Circumcision does not, but its protection is not absolute nor is it useful for women. So we remain steadfast in our work and our hope that it can help inform vaccine development.

The lab is celebrating many transitions. Paul Hines, who has worked with us since last summer, recently left the lab to start medical school at the University of Minnesota. Ben Burwitz is leaving to work in Jonah Sacha's laboratory at the Oregon Health Sciences University. Ben will be deeply missed, as he has been in the lab since 2007 and developed much of our immunology expertise. Finally, Shelby O'Connor has accepted an Assistant Professor position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will be starting her own lab in September. Fortunately, she will not be moving far - her lab will remain in the AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory, where she will share space with us, David Watkins's, and Thomas Friedirch's groups!

We welcomed four new staff to replace Paul (I did say he was valuable) and add support to newly funded projects. Ngoc Pham, Brian Cain, Matt Scarlotta, and Gabe Starrett are all acclimating to the lab. I'm certain you will be hearing more from them in upcoming blog updates.

We've had a number of new papers to celebrate (citations at the bottom of the post). Some come from our collaborators and some were written by members of our lab. Another two papers are currently out for review, so we are well on track to have a very productive 2011.

Moreland, A. J., L. A. Guethlein, R. K. Reeves, K. W. Broman, R. P. Johnson, P. Parham, D. H. O’Connor, and B. N. Bimber. 2011. Characterization of killer immunoglobulin-like receptor genetics and comprehensive genotyping by pyrosequencing in rhesus macaques. BMC Genomics 12:295: PMC3125267.

Budde, M. L., J. J. Lhost, B. J. Burwitz, E. A. Becker, C. M. Burns, S. L. O’Connor, J. A. Karl, R. W. Wiseman, B. N. Bimber, G. L. Zhang, W. Hildebrand, V. Brusic, and D. H. O’Connor. 2011. Transcriptionally abundant major histocompatibility complex class I alleles are fundamental to nonhuman primate simian immunodeficiency virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses. J Virol 85:3250-3261: PMC3067831.

Burwitz, B. J., Z. Ende, B. Sudolcan, M. R. Reynolds, J. M. Greene, B. N. Bimber, J. R. Almeida, M. Kurniawan, V. Venturi, E. Gostick, R. W. Wiseman, D. C. Douek, D. A. Price, and D. H. O’Connor. 2011. Simian immunodeficiency virus SIVmac239Deltanef vaccination elicits different Tat28-35SL8-specific CD8+ T-cell clonotypes compared to a DNA prime/adenovirus type 5 boost regimen in rhesus macaques. J Virol 85:3683-3689: PMC3067854.

Fernandez, C. S., J. C. Reece, U. Saepuloh, R. De Rose, D. Ishkandriati, D. H. O’Connor, R. W. Wiseman, and S. J. Kent. 2011. Screening and confirmatory testing of MHC class I alleles in pig-tailed macaques. Immunogenetics 63:511-521:

Greene, J. M., R. W. Wiseman, S. M. Lank, B. N. Bimber, J. A. Karl, B. J. Burwitz, J. J. Lhost, O. E. Hawkins, K. J. Kunstman, K. W. Broman, S. M. Wolinsky, W. H. Hildebrand, and D. H. O’Connor. 2011. Differential MHC class I expression in distinct leukocyte subsets. BMC Immunol 12:39:

Reed, J. S., J. Sidney, S. M. Piaskowski, C. E. Glidden, E. J. Leon, B. J. Burwitz, H. L. Kolar, C. M. Eernisse, J. R. Furlott, N. J. Maness, A. D. Walsh, R. A. Rudersdorf, W. Bardet, C. P. McMurtrey, D. H. O’Connor, W. H. Hildebrand, A. Sette, D. I. Watkins, and N. A. Wilson. 2011. The role of MHC class I allele Mamu-A*07 during SIV(mac)239 infection. Immunogenetics

Colantonio, A. D., B. N. Bimber, W. J. Neidermyer, R. K. Reeves, G. Alter, M. Altfeld, R. P. Johnson, M. Carrington, D. H. O’Connor, and D. T. Evans. 2011. KIR Polymorphisms Modulate Peptide-Dependent Binding to an MHC Class I Ligand with a Bw6 Motif. PLoS Pathog 7:e1001316: PMC3053351.

Creager, H. M., E. A. Becker, K. K. Sandman, J. A. Karl, S. M. Lank, B. N. Bimber, R. W. Wiseman, A. L. Hughes, S. L. O’Connor, and D. H. O’Connor. 2011. Characterization of full-length MHC class II sequences in Indonesian and Vietnamese cynomolgus macaques. Immunogenetics


Summer is here and the lab is once again in an enjoyable transition. Technician Paul Hines is leaving to start medical school in the fall. He will be replaced by Ngoc Pham, who will be joining us from the East coast. Two other grants were recently funded in the lab, paving the way for us to hire two other technicians who will be starting later this month. Finally, a grant we wrote to compare a human genetic typing method we developed (using Roche/454 sequencing to study HLA genes, for those of you with a scientific bent) was just funded. Simon Lank, who has been developing this method in our lab, will be the lead technician on this new project.

In addition, we are celebrating several new research manuscripts that have been published in the last few months. Michael Lauck published his first paper as a PhD student, describing a novel simian hemorrhagic fever virus in colobus monkeys living in Uganda. This paper is particularly exciting for us because it is the first (of hopefully several) papers produced in collaboration with Drs. Thomas Friedrich and Tony Goldberg. Together, we hope to identify new viruses in primates living in forest fragments in Uganda.

We continued our good run of undergraduate first author manuscripts earlier this month, when Hannah Craeger’s paper describing MHC class II genes in cynomolgus macaques from different locations appeared in Immunogenetics. Congratulations to Hannah and the rest of her research team!

Members of the lab also appeared as authors on papers from Stephen Kent’s group at the University of Melbourne and Dave Evans’s group at the New England Primate Research Center. As always, details on our most recent papers are available from the ‘Lab Publications’ link.

Despite a very productive 2011 to date, we are also remembering that it was 30 years ago this June when HIV was first officially documented. While the virus undoubtedly circulated for decades before its ‘discovery’, the 30 year anniversary provides a convenient opportunity to look back at the successes and failures of our field, while looking ahead to promising opportunities that may avert millions of infections that would otherwise occur in the next three decades. Male circumcision, female microbicides, ‘treatment as prevention’, improved access to antiretroviral treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis...the list of potential interventions goes on and on. And, of course, one cannot forget the essential and immutable goal of developing a preventative vaccine that would confer long-lasting immunity against HIV in people who are uninfected.

Good stories on the 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV here, here, and here.


Just in time for graduate student recruiting, I updated the lab publication list and our research interests. The lab is entering a very exciting time. We just published two manuscripts in the Journal of Virology that used next-generation DNA sequencing to understand macaque MHC genetics and acute phase SIV pathogenesis. We expect to publish additional studies using similar methodologies later this year.

We are also anxiously awaiting the completion of two macaque genome sequences from MHC-identical macaques that had dramatically different control of SIV infection. I don’t yet know how we will analyze the 3,000,000,000 DNA bases from each animal, but hopefully we will start to learn!

I also recently started the UW-Madison Global Infectious Disease working group to bring together campus researchers studying pathogens, primarily viruses, that cause significant disease worldwide. We had our first meeting in early February and had nearly 30 people attend. I’m hoping that this continues to grow in 2011.

Also, the lab has been busy presenting data at conferences and meetings. Emily is giving a poster presentation at the upcoming Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston. I will be going to Boston a week later to present at a Center for AIDS Research symposium. Next month Shelby and I will be traveling to Sao Paulo to teach in an HIV pathogenesis course. Exciting, but tiring!