Sandra K. Weller, Ph.D.Professor and Chair, Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics
|B.S.||Stanford University||Biological Sciences|
|Ph.D.||University of Wisconsin||Molecular Biology|
|Postdoctoral||Harvard Medical School||Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics|
|Name of Award/Honor||Awarding Organization|
|Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Award||University of Connecticut|
|Recipient of mentoring awards||Rotary Club and Governor’s Partnership for Prevention|
|Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Fellow 2002-2003||Drexel University College of Medicine|
|Merit Award 1997-2007||NIAID|
|Stuart Wilson Young Faculty Award||University of Connecticut Health Center|
|Established Investigator Award 1988-1993||American Heart Association|
|Junior Faculty Research Award 1985-1988||American Cancer Society|
|Basil O’Connor Research Award 1985-1987||March of Dimes Foundation|
|Fox Award; Outstanding Undergraduate Major in Biological Sciences||Stanford University|
|Cap and Gown Award; Outstanding Junior Student in Biological Sciences||Stanford University|
|Name & Description||Category||Role||Type||Scope||Start Year||End Year|
|Elected Vice President and President Elect of the CASE||Professional/Scientific Organization||Vice President and President Elect||External||State||2012|
|Scientific Advisory Board Morgridge Institutes Madison, Wisconsin||Advisory Committee||Elected Chair||External||University||2011|
|Appointed to the UMDNJ-RWJMS Laboratory Research Task Force||Other||Appointed Member||External||National||2010||2010|
|Governing Council of CASE||Professional/Scientific Organization||Secretary||External||State||2008||2008|
|Member NIH Study Section, VirA||Study Section||Member||External||National||2006||2010|
|Elected to of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE)||Professional/Scientific Organization||Councilor||External||State||2003||2003|
|Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Fellow||Professional/Scientific Organization||Fellow||External||National||2002||2003|
|Elected Member of the American Academy of Microbiology||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||National||2001|
|Member Infectious Disease Merit Review Panel – Veterans Administration||Professional/Scientific Organization||Review Panel Member||External||National||2001||2004|
|Elected Member of Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE)||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||State||1999|
|Division Chair American Society of Microbiology||Professional/Scientific Journal||Division Chair for DNA viruses||External||National||1998||1999|
|Journal of Virology||Editorial Board||Editorial Board||External||National||1996|
|Connecticut Virology Club||Professional/Scientific Organization||Founder and organizer||External||State||1995|
|NIH Study Section, Experimental Virology||Study Section||Member||External||National||1993||1997|
|Association of Medical School Microbiology and Immunology Chairs||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||National|
|American Society for Microbiology (ASM)||Professional/Scientific Journal||Member||External||National|
|Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry (AMGDB)||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||National|
|American Society for Virology (ASV)||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||National|
|American Association of University Women (AAUW)||Other||Member||External||National|
|Association for Women in Science (AWIS)||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||National|
|The Society for Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (SELAM)||Professional/Scientific Organization||Member||External||National|
|American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASMBM)||Professional/Scientific Journal||Member||External||National|
HSV-1 and -2 are large DNA virus which are responsible for oral and genital infections, sight-threatening ocular infections and brain infections which can be life threatening. Our laboratory uses genetic, biochemical, biophysical, structural and molecular approaches to elucidate mechanisms of synthesis, maturation and cleavage and packaging of viral genomes. One of our goals is to identify antiviral targets which can be exploited to develop strategies for controlling viral infections. Projects in the lab are diverse and include virus-host interactions important for the formation of replication compartments within the nucleus of infected cells; structure function analysis of two viral helicases; structure-function analysis of the zinc binding domain of the HSV-1 primase; analysis of the role of recombination in viral DNA replication and genome maturation and the analysis of the machinery involved in cleavage and packaging of viral genomes into preformed procapsids. Important recent discoveries include:
The identification and characterization of a novel viral recombinase.
The realization that host cell recombination and repair proteins are involved in HSV DNA synthesis.
The discovery that host chaperones are rearranged in infected cells into foci which act as quality control mechanisms for the production of properly folded proteins.
The finding that the initiation helicase-origin binding protein UL9 is degraded during infection in a ubiquitin mediated pathway.
The further characterization of the interdependence of the helicase and primase subunits with each other.
Accepting students for Lab Rotations: Summer '18, Fall '18, Spring '19
Lab Rotation Projects
Cleavage and Packaging of Herpes Simplex Virus genomes.
Capsid assembly and genome encapsidation are critical aspects in the life cycle of any virus. Our goal is to gain a better understanding of the processes by which head to tail concatemeric DNA molecules are taken up into preassembled capsids. We have recently provided the first evidence that HSV capsids contain disulfide bonds which may be important for viral assembly and encapsidation. This rotation project will involve the introduction of mutations into the conserved cysteine residues of capsid proteins to determine whether proper disulfide bond formation is important for during infection.
The role of the cellular DNA damage response in the Herpes Simplex Virus Life Cycle.
It is becoming clear that viruses have evolved elaborate interactions with the cellular repair, recombination and checkpoint machinery in order to create an environment conducive to their own replication. The host cell’s DNA damage machinery is alert for perturbations in DNA which could lead to genetic instability. After infection, some of this machinery is inactivated by the virus in attempt to remove obstacles to productive infection; however, other components are utilized by the virus to promote viral DNA replication. In this project, aspects of this fascinating cat and mouse game will be examined.
Analysis of a viral recombinase.
UL12 and ICP8 form a two subunit viral recombinase. We have recently shown that UL12 can stimulate single strand annealing, a cellular recombination pathway. In this project, mutants in UL12 will be made to determine which residues are needed for this stimulation. UL12 also interacts with host DNA damage repair proteins and the regions of UL12 necessary for these interactions will be mapped.