Positive-strand RNA viruses are responsible for a significant portion of human infections and represent a high risk for new and emerging human infections. This risk is exemplified by the 2016 outbreak of Zika virus in South America and the 2019 outbreak SARS-CoV-2. Research in the Neufeldt lab uses innovative imaging techniques in combination with a range of molecular virology and cell biology tools to investigate how positive-strand RNA virus infection manipulates cåellular membrane systems to facilitate viral processes and limit immune activation.

Our research program specifically focuses on determining mechanisms by which positive-strand RNA viruses utilize ER membrane-shaping proteins and cellular vesicle trafficking pathways, to better understand virus infection and characterize fundamental cellular functions of the ER and ER-associated proteins. All studied positive-strand RNA viruses replicate in host membranes with the majority requiring the ER for formation of their replication organelles. Although the morphology of virus-induced membrane rearrangements has been characterized, the mechanisms underlying ER membrane alterations are still poorly understood. The ER is the largest cellular organelle that extends throughout the cytoplasm and is involved in connecting numerous cellular processes. Mapping connections between the ER and other cellular organelles or processes, as well as understating the functional significance of these connections, is vital for our basic understanding of the cell. Studying virus-induced manipulation of the ER represents a unique opportunity to understand both virology and host processes that are linked to a variety of genetic diseases or disorders. Through studying the interactions between virus and host pathways we will also aim to characterize conserved host pathways utilized by different viruses that have broad therapeutic potential and can be targeted to limit virus infection and spread.