Understanding Merkel Cell Polyomavirus LT Function Through Thr297 Mutagenesis

Flora working in a lab.



Associate Professor of Microbiology

Project Summary

My project in the You Lab was to investigate on a phosphorylated site in the Large T-antigen in Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCPyV). Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is a small circular DNA virus that causes Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare but aggressive skin cancer. Past lab study identified a phosphorylated site -T297- next to origin binding domain, an important functional region for virus replication, of Large T-antigen and the alanine mutation of T297 increases virus replication rate. As we are interested in the reason and mechanism underlying this phenotype, the purpose of my research is to mutate MCPyV T297 into other amino acid residues and analyze the results.

I enjoyed my semester and summer research in the You Lab very much. My professor Jianxin You is extremely helpful and supports me to explore in-depth about the research topic. With her and the lab research scientists’ guidance and mentorship, I learned a lot about virology, oncology, and most importantly the design and methodology of wet lab research. Daily discussions between lab members and weekly lab meetings nourished my understanding of science and innovative research.

Participating in this research project advanced my learning not only in microbiology but also biochemistry. The knowledge I accumulated from past organic chemistry classes was useful in analyzing mutants’ phenotypes and amino acid properties, while I absorbed more from published journals in related topics. The project itself is very challenging as there are a lot of troubleshooting and biochemical/structural analysis going on. I appreciate CURF college alumni society undergraduate research grant as it helps me continue my research during the summer. Overall, I had a very fruitful experience in researching and I would continue my investigation on MCPyV in the You lab during my undergraduate career.