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

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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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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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

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…

February 2018

We received our first R01 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke to investigate the mechanisms of cell stress-mediated HSV reactivation.

December 2017

Anna is invited to give a symposium talk at the ASM conference on Viral Manipulation of Nuclear Processes in Charleston, SC.

Only ten days left! Abstract submission deadline for #viruses2020 is 13 September 2019 (Friday). Submit your abstracts via:

These @MedicineUVA scientists have revealed how #ecoli seeks out the most oxygen-free crevices of your colon to cause the worst infection possible @UVA_ID

We are pleased to announce that @VirusesMDPI will be awarding two travel awards for Postdoctoral Researchers and PhD students. Please apply online at by 31 October 2019.

(THREAD) Brexit is creeping towards us and I feel frustrated that so little thought has been given to people in families with dual nationalities. If you’re interested to know why Brexit is rubbish for me and my loved ones, please read on (fully expecting to lose followers here!)

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