Holda Anagho ’14 is a doctoral student in infection biology at Hannover Medical School in Germany, where she studies interactions between Hepatitis Delta Virus (HDV) and host cells in the lab of Professor Thomas von Hahn, M.D. At Amherst, she majored in biology, where she first became excited about research after a summer internship in Professor Caroline Goutte’s lab. While at Amherst, she also took several German language courses and served as president of the German theme house. After graduation, she spent a year as a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, where she conducted research on the effects of immunomodulatory drugs in primary effusion lymphoma, caused by Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) in the lab of Dr. Robert Yarchoan '71, M.D. There she first became interested in viruses. With generous support from Amherst College through the Kellogg Fellowship, she enrolled in the master's program in molecular biosciences at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, where she majored in infectious diseases. She did her master's thesis research in the lab of Dr. Pierre-Yves Lozach on entry and fusion of the Uukuniemi phlebovirus (UUKV) in mammalian cells. UUKV is an arthropod-borne virus closely related to emerging viruses that are highly pathogenic to humans, including Rift Valley fever virus, Heartland virus and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus. UUKV, which is nonpathogenic to humans, is therefore used as a model system to study its more pathogenic counterparts.
UUKV is closely related to emerging pathogenic viruses in the Phenuiviridae family that cause severe and sometimes fatal disease in humans, animals and plants. To release its viral genome into a cell, Uukuniemi virus must fuse its viral membrane with the host cell membrane. Fusion of the UUKV membrane is mediated by the viral Glycoprotein C (GC), which is thought to be a class II fusion protein. We aimed to characterize mechanisms of UUKV fusion in mammalian cells. To this end, we analyzed the effect of low pH on virus binding and entry, conducted functional studies of UUKV GC mutants to analyze effects on viral fusion, and tested peptides corresponding to regions of the GC ectodomain for their ability to inhibit viral entry.