Laboratory for Host-specific virology


Principle Investigator:

Dr. Stefan Rothenburg

Assistant Professor for Virology and Immunology

Email: sr1hsv[at]



Importance of Host-Virus-Specific Interactions for Virus Host Range and Virulence

Evolution of the Host Innate Immune System and Interaction with Viruses

Improved poxviruses for cancer therapy

Research Interests

The host innate immune system plays an essential role in detecting invading viruses and in initiating and orchestrating antiviral responses. In order to establish productive infections, viruses have to effectively inhibit this host response. This leads to an evolutionary arms race between the host and the virus.

Our research focuses on the interaction between viruses with the immune system of their hosts. We are studying how viral nucleic acids are detected in vertebrates, which antiviral pathways are activated and how viral molecules interfere with these processes.

Major research objectives are the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms that determine virus host range and virulence. Viral genes that are studied in our laboratory include those from poxviruses, influenza viruses, herpesviruses, iridoviruses, Ebola virus and tumor viruses.

We are harnessing the knowledge gained from the interaction studies of viral gene products with proteins of the host innate immune system to engineer poxviruses with enhanced capabilities to selectively destroy human cancer cells and to create proteins with enhanced antiviral activity that will help to prevent the transmission of viruses from animals to humans and to other animals.


pictures (clockwise)

Rothenburg Lab members Fall 2013

Localization of the Vaccinia virus protein E3L in transfected HeLa cells (Photo by Stefan Rothenburg).

HeLa cell transfected with nucleic acid sensor ZBP1 fused to RFP (red) and  TIA-1 fused to GFP (green) (Photo by Stefan Rothenburg).

Enveloped Iridovirus (photo by Gopal Murti (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN), kindly provided by V. Gregory Chinchar (University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS).

Rothenburg Lab News:

- May 2015: Adam Schieferecke was awarded a K-INBRE scholarship for the 2014-2015 academic year

-  May 2015: Katherine Sensenich’s K-INBRE scholarship will be renewed for the 2014-2015 academic year

-  April 2014: Katherine Sensenich won a “Most Promising Student Award” from the Division of Biology

- April 2014: Chen Peng and Sherry Haller received Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Research Travel Awards for attending the “XX International Poxvirus, Asfarvirus and Iridovirus Conference” in Victoria, B.C, Canada, in September 2014

- March 2014: Sherry Haller and Chen Peng won first and second prize, respectively, for best presentation in Biological Sciences 2, at the “19th Annual K-State Research Forum”, Manhattan, KS, March 2014

- January 2014: Wren Michaels received a poster award at the 12th Annual Kansas Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Symposium (read more)

- December 2013: Wren Michaels , Katherine Sensenich and Adam Schieferecke receive Cancer Research Awards from the Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research (read more)