Chris Netherton has been investigating different aspects of the life cycle of African swine fever virus (ASFV) for over fifteen years. His studies on ASFV have encompassed analysis of individual viral proteins right through to herd transmission experiments. Chris’ earlier work on ASFV focussed on intracellular virus-host interactions with a strong emphasis on cell-biology.
Chris investigated the effect of ASFV on the cell secretory pathway as a whole, specifically looking into a gene family of secretory proteins which have coding that enable the virus to stay within the cell organelles (endoplasmic reticulum retention motifs). Later experiments analysed the relationship between virus replication sites and cellular structures called aggresomes. Chris then went on to show that a protein (interferon regulated MxA protein) was recruited to ASFV replication sites and could inhibit virus replication. This was the first time that this had been observed for a large double-stranded DNA virus.
The principal research goal is to develop effective vaccines against this devastating disease of domestic pigs. Prior infection with low virulent strains of ASFV can protect against infection with closely related virulent strains, indicating that an effective ASFV vaccine is achievable. Current projects include identifying antigens that are recognised by lymphocytes (immune cells) from pigs protected by these attenuated strains of ASFV.
Chris is also studying how ASFV interacts with cellular stress pathways, such as autophagy and endoplasmic reticulum stress, and how altering these interactions can generate more effective vaccines.