Edward Gershburg, PhD
Dr. Gershburg is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology at SIU School of Medicine and a member of the SIU Simmons Cancer Institute. Dr. Gershburg is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, International Association for Research on Epstein-Barr virus and Associated Diseases, and International Society of Antiviral Research.
Biology and pathogenesis of the human herpesvirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is one of the eight human herpesviruses and an important opportunistic pathogen. EBV is now recognized as a causative agent in most cases of infectious mononucleosis, and is detectable in over 90% of the population worldwide. EBV is also associated with the development of several malignancies of lymphoid and epithelial origin, including Burkitt’s lymphoma, post-transplantation lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLD), Hodgkin’s disease, AIDS-related lymphomas, NK/T cell lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. EBV has a biphasic infection cycle consisting of a latent and a lytic, replicative phase. Latency is characterized by limited gene expression, lack of virion production, and is responsible for immortalization of infected cells. Hence, the oncogenic properties of EBV are historically associated with latent infection. In contrast, most viral genes are expressed during the lytic cycle, which results in assembly and release of infectious virus particles. Viral genes expressed in the lytic phase are rarely expressed in EBV-associated tumors, with the notable exception of lymphoproliferative diseases in the immunosuppressed host, in which they may play a pathogenic role; lytic infection also plays a role in establishing latency and facilitates virus spread. Consistent presence of the EBV in the aforementioned diseases and its role in their development offers a unique opportunity for design of highly-specific, virus-targeting therapies.
The major focus of the research in this laboratory is to understand the role in viral infection and identify the targets of the virally-encoded protein kinase (EBV-PK), an EBV BGLF4 gene product. We have previously shown that this protein kinase is essential for the EBV replication, and is a potential target for antiviral therapies. Two current projects in the laboratory are: (I) biochemical analyses of the EBV-PK enzymology and structure aimed to develop specific inhibitors with an antiviral potential; and (II) studies of EBV BKRF4 protein, which is one of the substrates of the EBV-PK, and its homologues in other herpesviruses.