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:

  1. -January 2015: Stefan Rothenburg joins the editorial board of the

  Journal of Virology

  1. -January 2015: Katherine Sensenich and Adam Schieferecke received

  poster awards at the 13th Annual Kansas Network of Biomedical

  Research Excellence Symposium

  1. -December 2014: Wren Michaels , Katherine Sensenich and Adam Schieferecke receive Cancer Research Awards from the Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research

  2. -December 2014: Wren Michaels received Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Award for Fall 201