John J. Karijolich, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
1161 21st Ave. S., MCN A-4301
City, State, ZIP
Nashville, TN 37232
(615) 875-7686
[email protected]
Research field
Virology; Immunology
Award year


My laboratory will investigate how retrotransposons—DNA sequences that constitute more than half of the human genome—could help keep viral infections at bay. Retrotransposons, some of which are remnants of viruses that integrated themselves into our DNA during evolution, are generally silent in healthy adult cells. However, our lab has discovered that in response to infection with Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a frequent complication of AIDS, at least one retrotransposon produces RNA copies of itself. Eliminating these RNAs, we further find, boosts viral infection—suggesting that the retrotransposon plays a role in the cell’s antiviral response. Now, we will assess whether the retrotransposon RNA we have identified activates antiviral genes and whether additional retrotransposons are involved in initiating or maintaining immune responses. Findings from our work could lead to novel therapeutics for the treatment of viral infections or for other conditions in which retrotransposons are inappropriately activated, including cancer.

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