Theoretically-driven discovery of viruses


Dr. Antoni Luque, San Diego State University

Duplodnaviria is one of the most ancient realms of viruses on Earth, pre-dating the last universal cellular ancestor. Its members infect hosts across all domains of life and include tailed phages—the most abundant and diverse biological entity on the planet. Yet, viruses in this realm display protective protein architectures that are complex and enclose large genomes compared to most viruses. The lack of small and simple viral architectures among Duplodnaviria is a gap in our understanding of the origin of viruses and a limitation in biomedical and biotechnological applications relying on tailed phages. To tackle this problem, we developed new mathematical models that predict the molecular architecture of viruses from genomic information. We applied these models to find the missing viruses in the wealth of microbial environmental genomic data accumulated across ecosystems, from hydrothermal vents to the human gut. In this presentation, I will expose the geometrical and physical foundations of our models, our exciting discovery of putative small Duplodnavira candidates, and the intriguing properties of their viral structural proteins.

Dr. Luque is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at San Diego State University (SDSU). His expertise is in theoretical and computational biophysics, and his research interest is at the interface of physical virology and viral ecology. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the Universitat of Barcelona in 2011 for his study on the structural, mechanical, and self-assembly properties of viruses. His postdoctoral training was at New York University, where he investigated chromatin using multiscale protein-DNA computational models. He became a faculty at SDSU in 2015, where he joined the interdisciplinary Viral Information Institute and the Computational Science Research Center. Dr. Luque has made significant contributions to the fields of physical virology, viral ecology, and chromatin, including new theoretical frameworks to investigate icosahedral and elongated viruses as well as the life cycle of viruses of microbes based on the physical properties of microbial communities. His interdisciplinary work has resulted in high-impact publications, including Nature, Nature Communications, PNAS, Physical Review Letters, and Nucleic Acids Research. Dr. Luque is the first faculty at SDSU to have received the California Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award and is a National Science Foundation awardee.


Meeting ID: 912 3803 3561

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