Gail W. Wertz, PhD

Gail W. Wertz, PhD

Gail  W.  Wertz
Degree(s): PhD
Graduate School: University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
Primary Appointment: Professor, Pathology
Research Interests:
Molecular Virology, Transcriptional Control, Viral Vaccine Development
Email Address:

Research Description

Lab Research Focus: RNA viruses are among the most serious uncontrolled causes of extant and emerging infectious disease. The Wertz lab investigates the molecular mechanisms of replication and transcription of the non-segmented negative strand RNA viruses. Using the prototypic rhabdovirus, VSV, and the major childhood pathogen, human respiratory syncytial virus, HRSV, we investigate the cis-acting signals and trans-acting factors involved in control of gene expression and genome replication of these viruses to understand at the molecular level how these agents replicate, cause disease and may be controlled. These viruses have an elegantly simple mechanism for controlling gene expression, which is by the highly conserved order of their genes relative to a single transcriptional promoter.

We have used this principle for control of transcription to manipulate the phenotype by rearranging the order of genes. By translocation of individual genes, or groups of genes to up or down regulate their levels of expression, we have developed stable virus variants that allow investigation of the role of these gene products in numerous aspects of the virus replication cycle and the interaction of the virus with its host. In the case of HRSV we have found that in addition to antigenic variation to evade an existing immune response, genetic variation exists in transcriptional signals of clinical lineages which can alter control of expression of important genes and affect reinfection potential. We are currently analyzing the stability and evolution of viruses with changes introduced into control elements and using the power of selective pressure to identify key cis- and trans-acting elements in the processes of transcription and replication.

Selected Publications

Harouaka D, Wertz GW.  Second-site mutations selected in transcriptional regulatory sequences compensate for engineered mutations in the vesicular stomatitis virus nucleocapsid protein. J Virol. 2012 Oct;86(20):11266-75. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

Batonick M, Wertz GW.  Requirements for Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus Glycoproteins in Assembly and Egress from Infected Cells. Adv Virol. 2011 May 16;2011. doi:pii: 343408.

Brown JC, Newcomb WW, Wertz GW.  Helical virus structure: the case of the rhabdovirus bullet. Viruses. 2010 Apr;2(4):995-1001. doi: 10.3390/v2040995. Epub 2010 Apr 12.

Rainsford EW, Harouaka D, Wertz GW.  Importance of hydrogen bond contacts between the N protein and RNA genome of vesicular stomatitis virus in encapsidation and RNA synthesis. J Virol. 2010 Feb;84(4):1741-51. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01803-09. Epub 2009 Dec 9.

PubMed Listings by this Faculty Member

Contact Information
Office Address: PO Box 800904, MR5 Room 3051, 415 Lane Road
Office Phone: 434-982-6039, 434-982-6304
Fax Phone: 434-924-2151