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.

Mission Statement

One questions we often get from people interested in joining the lab is what do we look for in a colleague? When looking for new members we value potential, enthusiasm and ability to work together as a team. We celebrate diversity, both in terms of race, gender, background, physical abilities and sexuality, and also intellectual diversity. We recognize that everyone has their strengths and areas that they struggle with, and we build on those strengths while working as a team to help each everyone reach their full potential.

Therefore, anyone interested in working with us please email Anna with a description of their research interests.

We have an opening right now for a research technician. Apply here 

Contact Us

Neuronal hyperexcitability is a DLK-dependent trigger of HSV-1 reactivation that can be induced by IL-1

The latest pre-print from our lab describes how HSV-1 reactivation can be induced by conditions that induce neuronal hyperexcitability including exposure IL-1. This study may help explain why HSV undergoes reactivation during fever and psychological stress.
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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. JNK-dependent reactivation results in a specific change to the HSV epigenome known as a histone methyl/phospho switch, which can permit gene expression to occur from repressive heterochromatin. This study therefore answer a long-standing question as to how viral gene expression can initiate to trigger HSV reactivation.
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Restarting Lytic Gene Transcription

Review authored by Anna Cliffe and Angus Wilson of NYU highlighting evidence that mechanisms governing the initial transcription of lytic genes during reactivation are distinct from those of de novo infection.
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Connect with Cliffe Lab

April 2020

Congratulations to Jon Suzich on being awarded the Whitfield Randolph Scholarship from UVa MSTP.

April 2020

Huge congratulations to MSTP student Jon Suzich and undergrad Hiam Baidas on being awarded the UVA Double Hoo award.

Feb 2020

Congratulations to graduate student Sean Cuddy for a great talk at the UVA Infectious Diseases and Global Biothreats Research Day, and Jon Suzich for winning a best poster award!

Feb 2020

We were just awarded a new R21 grant from NIAID to study the mechanisms by which type I interferon treatment promotes a more repressive form of HSV latency.

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!

Tissue-specific tolerance in fatal Covid-19 | medRxiv. Nice study from my good friend, and favorite Scot, Chris Lucas.

Our amazing bioinformatician, Morgan, is not joining us (she went to greener pastures of industry) and we are looking for a bioinformatician for our lab. Please apply through Posting #47633 and feel free to email me, if you have questions. Please RT

Any PhD graduates out there looking for a postdoctoral opportunity in a fun, supportive lab researching the fundamentals of neuronal shape change and plasma membrane remodeling? Live cell imaging + modeling? PM me about the lab, our research, and UNC!

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