Cliffe Lab

Welcome to the Cliffe Lab

The Cliffe Lab is part of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology (MIC)  and the Neuroscience Graduate Program 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.

Contact Us

Type I IFN dependent restriction of HSV latency

Latent HSV genomes have memory

Read our latest work from MSTP student Jon Suzich on how type I IFN upon de novo infection results in a more restricted form of HSV latency. We also link this restriction to association of viral genomes with PML nuclear bodies.
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HSV reactivation in response to neuronal hyperexcitability and IL-1

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

The latest study from our lab published in eLife 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, psychological stress and following sunburn.
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HSV Phase I and phase II of 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. 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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Connect with Cliffe Lab

News All News »

Feb 2021

UVa BIMS student Abby Whitford joins the Cliffe lab. Welcome Abby!

Feb 2021

See our new study on HSV reactivation featured on the UVa today  and CBS19 news  

Dec 2020

Ending 2020 with our first study published in eLife. Read here for more details on how HSV reactivation can be induced from neurons following hyperexcitation and in the presence of…

August 2020

Welcome new visiting student Patryk Krakowiak to the lab. Patryk will be investigating HSV infection of human neurons using a novel induced neuron system.

July 2020

Welcome our new technician Corinne Perloski to the lab!


15 months after picking the kids up from school I just dropped them at camp for the day. Been an interesting ride but am super proud of how well the lab has coped with constant Zoom interruptions from my kiddos. Definitely gained new stress and time management tools!

Interested in a good postdoc position? Very cool opportunity to work at the interface of biomedical engineering, immunology, and infectious disease. Plus the PI is an amazing mentor and scientist. Post Doctoral Research Associate in Microbiology, Derré Lab

We at Mitogenie are currently working on ways to promote the amazing research of young/early career scientists through our platform. Reach out if you are interested, or please share with those that may be interested!

I just signed up to be a mentor for the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project #NSURP2021 #nolabnoproblem

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