Cliffe Lab

Welcome to the Cliffe Lab

The Cliffe Lab is part of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology (MIC), at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Research Interests

Our lab is interested in the mechanisms of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) latency and reactivation in neurons. HSV is a ubiquitous pathogen that infects approximately 67% of the world’s population. It hides for life in the form of a latent or silent infection of neurons and periodically reactivates, which can result in disease. The mechanisms regulating how the virus hides in neurons and how reactivation occurs are not understood. In addition, the long-term effects of HSV persistence on neuronal function are not known.

​We use primary and differentiated neurons along with in vivo models to understand why HSV establishes a latent infection only in neurons and how the virus escapes from latency to reactivation. Our goals are to understand 1) how neurons sense and respond to HSV infection, 2) the mechanisms of chromatin based silencing of the viral genome,  3) how gene silencing is reversed during reactivation and 4) the long-term impact of HSV infection on neuronal functions.

Join us!

We’re always looking for talented, enthusiastic postdocs with a background in Virology, Molecular Biology or Neuroscience to join our team. Interested candidates should email Anna with a description of their research interests and CV.

Contact Us

Microscopic image of neurons

Restarting Lytic Gene Transcription

Review of evidence that mechanisms governing the initial transcription of lytic genes are distinct from those of de novo infection and directly link reactivation to neuronal stress response pathways.
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Graphic of HSV reactivation

Neuronal Stress Pathway Mediates a Switch

A neuronal pathway involving activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), common to many stress responses, is essential for initial HSV gene expression during reactivation.
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Image of floating neuron

Promoting Survival in Neurons and Cancer Cells

Cytochrome c (Cyt c), which induces apoptosis upon its release from damaged mitochondria, is targeted for proteasome-mediated degradation in mouse neurons, cardiomyocytes, and myotubes and in human glioma and neuroblastoma cells, but not in proliferating human fibroblasts.
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Connect with Cliffe Lab

March 2019

MSTP student Jon Suzich is awarded a F30 fellowship from the NIH to study the interferon dependent mechanism of restricted HSV latency. Congratulations Jon!

Feb 2019

Graduate students Sean Cuddy and Sara Dochnal join the lab - welcome Sara and Sean!

July 2018

Polish visiting student Aleksandra Babnis joins the lab. Welcome Aleksandra!

July 2018

Jon and Anna publish their review in Virology about the cellular pathways regulating HSV reactivation from latency.

February 2018

BIMS student Alison Francois and MSTP student Jon Suzich join the lab. Alison will be working on the targeting of heterochromatin to the HSV genome and Jon on the role…

Really enjoyed #viruses2020 - great talks, posters, catching up with old friends and meeting ⁦@VirusesMDPI⁩ editorial board members BUT look what my youngest did while mum was away

We are seeking applicants with a research focus in cancer biology for a tenure-eligible position at the rank of Assistant/Associate Professor! Apply here:

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