Root_Michael_720x720Clinical Professor, Microbial Infection and Immunity

731 Biomedical Research Tower (BRT)
460 W 12th Ave, Columbus OH 43210

Membership:  Infectious Diseases Institute

Research Interests

The Root laboratory explores the structure and function of viral fusion glycoproteins responsible for cellular entry of enveloped virus such as HIV-1.  These glycoproteins catalyze the merger of cellular and viral membranes, a process that requires significant energy expenditure to overcome a large activation barrier.  To accomplish this task in the extracellular environment devoid of energy molecules (e.g., ATP), fusion glycoproteins reside on viruses in a metastable, high-energy state and undergo coordinated conformational changes when triggered in the environment of the target cell.  These structural transitions release energy that is then harnessed to activate membrane fusion.  

Experiments in the Root laboratory seek to understand how fusion glycoproteins assume their metastable native structure, how the conformational changes are coordinated, and how the released energy is channeled into membrane merger.  The main focus in on fusion glycoprotein Env from HIV-1, but fusion glycoproteins from Ebola virus, influenza virus and SARS-CoV are also studied.  The research has led to the rational design of novel antiviral agents that target intermediate conformational states and disrupt structural transitions.  How viruses evolve to escape these agents have provided insights into the structure and dynamics of fusion glycoproteins during membrane fusion.  The Root laboratory also applies quantitative analysis, bioinformatics and computational modeling to decipher the allosteric control of the structural transitions.  Ultimately, the goals of Dr. Root’s research program are to broaden the understanding of the mechanism of membrane fusion and its inhibition and to provide structural and dynamic insights to assist in antiviral vaccine development.

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736 Biomedical Research Tower (BRT)
460 W 12th Ave, Columbus OH 43210