Research

The long term goal of our laboratory research is to identify, understand and eliminate factors responsible for the profoundly disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS among minority populations in the United States. To achieve this goal our current laboratory research focuses on understanding the biochemical mechanisms of HIV-1 infection and pathogenesis. The specific projects currently being pursued in our laboratory are as follows:


1) Understanding the effects of cocaine on HIV-1 replication
Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse/NIH
Project Summary: Cocaine is one of the commonly used drugs among HIV-infected patients. HIV positive patients who use cocaine have have a greater risk for AIDS-related death. However, underlying mechanism by which cocaine enhances HIV-1 replication remains unknown. In this project we are examining the mechanism by which cocaine enhances HIV-1 replication in primary CD4+ T cells.


2) Examining the synergistc effects of cocaine and HIV-1 on CD4+ T cell decline
Funding Source: Vanderbilt CTSA
Project Summary: CD4+ T cell loss is an important indicator of HIV-1 disease progression. Clinical studies suggest that cocaine abuse accelerates CD4+ T cell loss in HIV-1 infected patients. This research project focuses on examining the synergy between cocaine and HIV-1 virions on CD4+ T cell death in an ex vivo model.


3) Determining the effects of methamphetamine on HIV-1 infection/replication
Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse/NIH
Project Summary: Methamphetamine is the second most frequently used illicit drug in the United States. Methamphetamine abuse is associated with increased risk of HIV-1 acquisition, higher viral loads, and enhanced HIV-1 pathogenesis. However, a direct link between methamphetamine abuse and HIV-1 pathogenesis remains to be established in human patients. Therefore, the goal of this project is to test the effects of methamphetamine on HIV-1 replication in CD4+ T cells that are the primary targets of HIV in vivo.


4) Examining a direct and functional role of HIV-1 capsid on viral DNA integration
Funding Source: Pittsburgh Center for HIV Protein Interaction, Univ. of Pittsburgh
Project Summary: HIV-1 capsid (CA) is a multifunctional viral protein that plays important roles in reverse transcription and nuclear import of the pre-integration complex (PIC). Despite significant advances in recent years on HIV-1 CA structure and function, a key knowledge gap in the early stages of HIV-1 infection is the potential role of CA in viral DNA integration. The goal of this project is to understand the biochemical basis underlying the role of HIV-1 capsid (CA) in viral integration.