C. Durga Rao
Three areas of research that are currently being pursued in our laboratory are: (a) Molecular biology of rotavirus, (b) Post-transcriptional and translational regulation of eukaryotic gene expression and (c) Biology of Enteroviruses. Rotavirus is the major causative agent of acute infantile gastroenteritis and accounts for about 600,000 deaths worldwide annually. An effective vaccine against rotavirus disease is yet to be developed. A major finding from our laboratory is the identification and characterization of a novel asymptomatic rotavirus strain I321 from a large number of normal newborn children in Bangalore. I321 has been proposed as a potential live vaccine candidate in humans and is being evaluated in clinical trials. Our studies indicate that age-old Indian traditions, close association of majority of the Indian population with cattle and sociological conditions play a catalytic role in the inter-species transmission of rotaviruses and evolution of novel strains in India. Current studies are focused towards understanding the structure and function of the rotavirus enterotoxin NSP4 and molecular mechanism of NSP4-mediated pathogenesis, mechanism of selective translation of rotaviral mRNAs in the infected cells, molecular interactions between other nonstructural proteins NSP2, NSP5 and NSP6. Functional expression of a gene can be regulated at multiple levels. Recent studies indicate that post-transcriptional and translational control mechanisms play a central role in the pathway of global as well as specific gene expression. Deregulation of these control mechanisms could lead to human disorders such as cancer. Our studies are directed towards understanding the role of AU-rich elements (AREs) and their binding proteins (AREBPs) that influence mRNA stability and splicing. Enteroviruses belong to the family Picornaviridae and constitute a large group of viruses that cause a wide range of diseases in humans and animals such as acute flaccid paralysis, meningitis, myocarditis, acute diarrhea, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, Type 1 diabetes, conjunctivitis etc. A well-known example of this genus is poliovirus. Our current focus is to understand the nature of non-polio enteroviruses causing paralysis, acute diarrhoea and aseptic meningitis, structure and function of the viral genes, molecular mechanism of pathogenesis and the role of unknown ORFs in the biology of the viruses.