Among other things, the virology group of the Department of Medical Microbiology is specialized in
- Molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics of bacteria and viruses
- Recombinant DNA technology and ‘reverse genetics’
- Cell biology and immunology of the infected host
- In silico analysis of genomes and proteomes
- Development and safe use of a broad set of viral vectors
- Quantitative diagnostics
Extensive expertise has been developed in working with (recombinant) viruses at three biosafety levels (BSL-1, -2, en -3). The department has facilities for cell and virus culture, protein expression and purification, nuclec acid analysis, ultracentrifugation, DNA sequence analysis, immunofluorescence microscopy, quantitative PCR, and experiments with radioisotopes.
The possibility to make specific changes in RNA-virus proteins and regulatory RNA sequences is an important instrument in present-day virology. Not only to dissect the molecular biology of the viral replicative cycle or to determine gene functions, but also to study aspects like viral pathogenesis and the immune response to virus infections. Furthermore, reverse genetics also makes it possible to engineer viruses with additional properties, e.g. expression of a foreign protein, which may be useful in basic research and may in the long run be used as viral vectors. We are collaborating with several groups on the development and use of 'reverse genetics' systems for corona- and arteriviruses, in particular to explore arterivirus gene function, improve the efficiency of coronavirus reverse genetics, and apply these improvements in the study of coronavirus RNA polymerases.
The research sections of the Department , working in virology and bacteriology, can use a modern research infrastructure, including a 16-channel sequencer for genome analysis, multiple ultracentrifuges, advanced Luminex and PCR equipment (real-time PCR), and an immunofluorescence microscope. For more advanced microscopy (confocal and electron microscopy; live imaging) we have access to the facilities of the department of Molecular Cell Biology. For large-scale sequence analysis, advanced techniques for single-molecule sequencing, and micro arrays , excellent facilities are available within the LGTC. The same is true for biomolecular mass spectrometry within another LUMC technology platform.