It is estimated that ~15% of cancers are caused by viral infections. Viruses are intracellular parasites which lack their own metabolism, so they must hijack host cell metabolic machinery in order to create more energy, proteins, fats and genetic material necessary to replicate.
The Delgado lab research seeks to understanding how gammaherpesviruses cause cancer by altering host cell metabolism. Her lab also is working to identify metabolic inhibitors that can provide new antiviral treatments.
Two of the top seven human oncogenic viruses are members of the gammaherpesvirus family: Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and Kaposi’s Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV).
Our lab uses murine herpesvirus 68 (MHV-68), a mouse gammaherpesvirus which shares significant genetic homology with KSHV and EBV, as a model system to study oncogenic gammaherpesvirus infections and their induced cancers.
One of the key hallmarks of cancer is an alteration of host cell metabolism. During cellular metabolism, glucose is taken into a cell and is broken down via the metabolic pathway glycolysis. Metabolites created by glycolysis then enter the TCA cycle where they are further broken down to generate ATP energy for the cell. Alternatively, the amino acid glutamine can be used as a secondary fuel and carbon source, as it can feed into the TCA cycle via glutaminolysis. Other than generating energy, metabolites in the TCA cycle can be shuttled to another metabolic pathway known as lipogenesis, which creates new lipids for the cell. Most commonly, these new lipids are used to create phospholipids (cellular membrane materials) or can be stored as triglycerides (fat) for energy generation later. Viruses likely evolved the ability to alter host cell metabolism so it can create substrates (genetic material, protein, fat and energy) necessary to promote their replication.
The Delgado lab is interested in determine which host cell metabolism pathways are altered during lytic gammaherpesvirus infection, with the hopes to target these pathways as antiviral treatments.
The experiments in her lab are performed by undergraduate students and many of her students have won awards for their research at both national and regional conferences.