Gail W. Wertz Ph.D

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Gail W. Wertz Ph.D

Gail W. Wertz Ph.D Faculty Profile


Gail W. Wertz, Ph.D

Professor of Pathology


College: College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA, B.S. - Biology
Graduate School: University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Pittsburgh, PA, Ph.D. - Microbiology
Post Doctoral: University of Michigan, School of Medicine, Department of Human Genetics, Ann Arbor, MI.  - Molecular Virology
University of Michigan, School of Medicine, Department of Human Genetics, Ann Arbor, MI, Research Associate  - Molecular Virology


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.


Gail W. Wertz, Professor of Microbiology, obtained her Ph.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, Pennsylvania. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan , she was a Professor of Microbiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and subsequently Professor of Microbiology at the University of Alabama until 2005 when she became part of the Pathology faculty at UVA. Dr. Wertz's research on human respiratory syncytial virus has identified unique viral gene products important in replication and pathogenesis. Recent work from her lab has pioneered genetic engineering of negative strand RNA viruses. This has allowed development of new principles for systematic alteration of phenotype to generate attenuated virus vaccine candidates. Dr. Wertz is past President of the American Society for Virology, served on the NIH NIAID Advisory Council and the CDC  Basic Science Advisory Board, and was a recipient of two NIH MERIT Awards.


  • Sastre, P. A.G.Oomens and G.W. Wertz. 2007. The stability of Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus is enhanced by incorporation of the baculovirus GP64 Protein. Vaccine; In Press.
  • Oomens,  A.G., Bevis, K., and G.W. Wertz. 2006. The Cytoplasmic Tail of the Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus F Protein Plays a Critical Role in Cellular Localization of the F Protein and Infectious Progeny Production. J. Virol. 80:10465-10477.
  • Green,T.J., X. Zhang, G.W. Wertz and M. Luo. 2006. Structure of the Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Nucleoprotein-RNA Complex. Science. 313 (5785):357-360.
  • Martinez, I. and G. W. Wertz. 2005. Biological differences between vesicular stomatitis virus Indiana and New Jersey serotype glycoproteins: Identification of amino acid residues modulating pH dependent infectivity. J. Virology, 79:3578-3585.
  • Moudy,R.M., W. M. Sullender, and  G.W. Wertz. 2004. Variations in intergenic region sequences of Human respiratory syncytial virus clinical isolates: analysis of effects on transcriptional regulation. Virology,  327:121-133.
  • Novella, I.S. ,L.A. Ball and G.W. Wertz. 2004.  Fitness Analyses  of VSV strains with rearranged genomes reveal replicative disadvantages. J. Virol. 78: 9837-9841.
  • Martinez, I., J. del C. Barrera, L.L. Rodriguez, and G.W. Wertz. 2004. Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis (Indiana) Virus expressing New Jersey and Indiana glycoproteins induces neutralizing antibodies to each serotype in swine,  a natural  host. Vaccine, 22:4035-4043.
  • Oomens, A.G.P. and G.W. Wertz. 2004. Trans-Complementation allows recovery of human respiratory syncytial viruses that are infectious but deficient  in cell to cell transmission. J. Virol. 78: 9064-9072.
  • Wertz, G. W. and R.M.  Moudy. 2004.  Antigenic and genetic variation in human respiratory syncytial virus. The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 23:s19-24.
  • Oomens, A.G.P. and G.W. Wertz. 2004. The Baculovirus GP64 Protein mediates highly stable infectivity of a human respiratory syncytial virus lacking its homologous transmembrane glycoproteins. J. Virol. 78:124-135.
  • Whelan, S.P.J., J.N. Barr and G.W. Wertz. 2004. Transcription and replication of Nonsegmented Negative Strand  RNA Viruses. In: Biology of Negative Strand RNA Viruses: The power of Reverse Genetics, Y. Kawaoka, Ed. Current Topics in Microbiology. 283: 61-119.
  • Martinez, I., L.L. Rodriguez, C. Jimenez, S. Pauszek, and G.W. Wertz. 2003. Vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein is a determinant of pathogenesis in swine,  a natural host. J. Virology, 77, 8039-8047.
  • Cartee, T. W., A. G. Megaw, A. G. P Oomens and G. W. Wertz.  2003.  Identification of a single amino acid change in the human respiratory syncytial virus L protein that affects transcriptional termination. J. Virol. 77,  7352-7360.
  • Moudy, R. M., S. B. Harmon, W. M. Sullender and G. W. Wertz.  2003.  Variations in transcription termination signals of human respiratory syncytial virus clinical isolates affect gene expression.  Virology,  313, 250-260.
  • Flanagan, E.B., T.R. Schoeb and G.W. Wertz. 2003. Vesicular Stomatitis Viruses with Rearranged Genomes have Altered Invasiveness and Neuropathogenesis in Mice. J. Virol. 77, 5740-5748.
  • Barr, J.N., R.M. Elliott, E. F. Dunn, and G.W. Wertz. 2003. Segment-specific terminal sequences of Bunyamwera bunyavirus regulate genome replication. Virology, 308, 326-338.
  • Oomens, A. G. P., A. G. Megaw, and G. W. Wertz. 2003. Infectivity of a human respiratory syncytial virus lacking the SH, G, and F proteins is efficiently mediated by the vesicular stomatitis virus G protein.  J. Virol., 77,  3785-3798.
  • Harmon, S.B. and G. W. Wertz. 2002. Transcriptional termination modulated by nucleotides outside the characterized gene end sequence of respiratory syncytial virus. Virology, 300, 304-315.
  • Wertz, G.W., R. Moudy and L.A. Ball. 2002. Adding genes to the RNA genome of vesicular stomatitis virus: Positional effects on stability of expression.  J. Virol. 76, 7642-7650.
  • Hinzman, E. E., J.N. Barr and G.W. Wertz. 2002. Identification of an upstream sequence element required for transcription of VSV mRNAs. J. Virol.76, 7632-7641.
  • Whelan, S.P.J. and G.W. Wertz. 2002. Transcription and replication initiate at separate sites on the vesicular stomatitis virus genome. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA  99, 9178-9183.
  • Barr, J.N., X. Tang, E. Hinzman,  R. Shen and G.W. Wertz. 2008. The VSV polymerase can initiate at  mRNA  start sites located either  up or downstream  of a transcription termination signal but size of the intervening intergenic region affects  efficiency of initiation.  Virology  374:361-370

  • Batonick, M. A. Oomens and G.W. Wertz. 2008. Human respiratory syncytial virus glycoproteins are not required for apical  targeting or polarized release of virus. J. Virol. 82: 8664-8672.

  • Hinzman, E., J.N. Barr and G.W. Wertz. 2008. Selection for gene junction sequences important     for VSV transcription. Virology  380:379-387.

  • Galloway, S., P.E. Richardson and G.W. Wertz.  2008. Analysis of a structural homology model   of the 2'-O-ribose methyltransferase domain within the  vesicular stomatitis virus protein. Virology. 382:69-82.

  • Galloway, S. and G.W. Wertz. 2008. S-adenosyl homocysteine-induced  hyper-polyadenylation    of  VSV mRNA requires the methyltransferase activity of the L protein. J. Virology 82:12280-12290.

  • Galloway, S. and G.W. Wertz. 2009. A temperature sensitive VSV identifies L protein residues involved in transcription but not replication. Virology 388:286-293.

  • Harouaka,  D. and G. W. Wertz. 2009.  Mutations in the C-termianlLoop of the Nucleocapsid       Protein Affect VSV RNA Replication  and Transcription Differentially. J. Virol. 83:11429-          11439.

  • Rainsford, E.W., D. Harouaka and G. W. Wertz. 2010. Importance of Hydrogen Bond Contacts between  the N  Protein and RNA Genome of vesicular stomatitis virus in encapsidation and RNA Synthesis. J. Virol. 84:1741-1751.

  • Wertz, G.W., S.E. Galloway and D. Harouaka. 2010. What Controls the Distinct VSV RNA           Synthetic Processes of Replication and Transcription. In Press.

  • Batonick, M. and G.W. Wertz. 2011. Requirements for human respiratory syncytial virus glycoproteins in assembly and egress from infected cells. Advances in Virology, vol. 2011, Article ID 343408, 11 pages. Doi;10.1155/2011/343408.


A more complete list of Dr. Wertz' publications can be obtained from PubMed

Contact Information -
Phone: (434) 982-6039
Address: 415 Lane Road, MR5 Building, Room 3051, PO Box 800904, Charlottesville, VA. 22908