Bioinformatics associate scientist Fahong Yu, Ph.D. provided research assistance in two recent publications (2019).
Oral epithelial cells (OEC) that line the oral cavity are the first line of defense against pathogenic organisms including viruses that infect the body through the oral route. The role of the OEC in triggering the immune response to viral infection is poorly understood. ICBR Bioinformatics expert Dr. Fahong Yu performed data analysis and was a key collaborator in a study performed in the laboratory of Dr. Gill Diamond in the UF Department of Oral Surgery. Dr. Diamond’s laboratory investigates the response of oral mucosal keratinocytes grown in culture to molecules that mimic viral infection. OECs express basal levels of novel type I interferons IFNE and IFNK, while exposure to the viral mimic poly (I:C) induced interferon IFNB1 as well as other interferon‐stimulated genes. These results were published in the journal Molecular Oral Microbiology and demonstrate that OECs exhibit a robust innate antiviral immune defense profile, which is primed to address a wide variety of pathogenic viruses that are transmitted orally.
Dr. Yu and ICBR Gene Expression and Genotyping‘s Scientific Director Dr. Yanping Zhang contributed to research whose outcome has the potential to provide insight into novel molecular strategies that may be used to improve public health by using viruses to control mosquito populations. The mosquito species Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of emergent mosquito-borne viruses, including chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika viruses. This study, from the laboratory of Dr. Barry Alto in the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, was led by Dr. Liming Zhao in collaboration with Dr. Yongxing Wang from the City of Gainesville Mosquito Control Services. Published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the authors investigated the immune response of two different strains of mosquito to the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), an emerging viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes, primarily Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus. Recent outbreaks of CHIKV occurred in Kenya in 2004 and the island of La Réunion in 2005–2006. To understand how these viruses interact with their mosquito vectors, the UF researchers used high throughput DNA Sequencing performed in the ICBR Next Generation Sequencing Core to compare the gene expression patterns of two Florida Ae. aegypti strains in response to chikungunya virus infection. The authors analyzed a strain collected from a field population in Key West, Florida, and a laboratory strain originating from Orlando. Detailed analysis showed that the two strains respond differently to viral infection. A group of genes encoding important immune-related enzymes play an important role in the response to CHIKV infection in Ae. aegypti. These enzymes induced by CHIKV may represent a potential targeting pathway to devise novel molecular strategies for interruption of CHIKV and other arboviruses transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.