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Presentation Time: 1:55-2:15
Home University: North Carolina Central University
Research Mentor: Helen Lazear, Immunology and virology
Program: M&I-HBCU SROP
Research Title: The Power of Interferons: Interferons vs. Viruses

Nissi Ficklin
Mentor’s information: Nick Catanzaro- (Helen Lazear lab)

The body is full of amazing things that it can do. One of which is fighting off viruses on its own. The innate immune system is the body’s first line of defense, and with the help of interferons this is possible. Interferons are cytokines that tell cells how to fight viruses. Interferons are glycoproteins that are produced by cells to respond to the virus, restrict the continuation of virus replication, and the spread of the virus before the adaptive response is developed. Type I interferons (IFN-α/β) and type III interferons (IFN-λ) are produced in response to viral infection and signal through the JAK/STAT pathway to induce the expression of interferon stimulated genes (ISGs). To test this hypothesis, we first designed and cloned single guide RNAs targeting candidate ISGs into the all-in-one expression vector, pLentiCRISPRv2. All constructs were verified by Sanger sequencing and introduced into an A549 human lung epithelial cell culture model. Cells are currently undergoing puromycin selection to obtain an edited population. Successful ISG knockouts will first be verified by western blot analysis. Zika virus replication will then be assessed in ISG knockout cells by performing multi-step growth curves and virus titrations. A better understanding of the innate immune response to viral infection will help develop novel antiviral therapeutics.