The Van Doorslaer lab at the University of Arizona

Exploring the importance of papillomavirus evolution

The red queen hypothesis states that the host-parasite arms race results in an uneasy balance. Many persistent viruses have co-evolved along-side their hosts for millions of years. Under normal conditions, most persistent viruses do not cause overt disease in the host. Papillomaviruses have evolved to usurp the cellular machinery to complete their life-cycle. The papillomaviral lifecycle perturbs the normal differentiation cycle of the infected cell, forcing cells to divide far beyond their natural lifespan. It is feasible that the continued insult provided by replicating viruses eventually results in malignant transformation of the infected cell. However, while the persistent infection is key to viral oncogenesis, many long-term persisting viruses do not cause cancer. We use cutting-edge technologies and approachesw to elucidate which viral phenotypes are associated with oncogenic progression. The pathways targeted by these viruses may represent powerful targets for therapeutic intervention.