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Dr Ariberto Fassati
1.3.10
Wohl Virion Centre, UCL
The Cruciform Building, Gower Street
London
WC1E 6BT
Tel: 020 31082138
Appointment
  • Reader in Cellular & Molecular Virology
  • Div of Infection & Immunity
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences
Biography

Ariberto Fassati graduated in Medicine (Summa cum Laude) at the University of Milan, Italy, and specialised in Neurology in 1994. He moved to the UK and obtained a PhD from UMDS Guy's Hospital, London, in 1997 on gene therapy for neuromuscular diseases and was awarded a Wellcome Trust Prize International fellowship to work with Steve Goff at Columbia University, New York. Dr. Fassati returned to the UK in 1999 to work in Robin Weiss's group at UCL, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Career Development fellowship in 2000 to set up his own group at UCL and a Wellcome Trust University Award in 2004. He is a Reader in Cellular & Molecular Virology and the Director of the Wohl Virion Centre.

Fassati is an Associate Editor of Retrovirology and a former faculty member of Faculty1000.

Research Groups
Research Themes
Research Summary

I have three main areas of interest: 1) molecular host-virus interactions; 2) nucleocytoplasmic trafficking of viruses and tRNAs; 3) Transmissible cancers.

As a Wellcome Trust International Fellow I joined Stephen Goff’s lab at Columbia University in 1998 and in 2000 moved to UCL with Robin Weiss. I investigated poorly understood steps of retrovirus infection such as uncoating and intracellular reverse transcription. I discovered that HIV-1 must shed the capsid core early to progress to productive infection, in contrast to oncoretroviruses. Recently I proposed that, although HIV-1 uncoating starts early, it is completed inside the nucleus and that Transportin 3 is involved in this step.

As a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow, I worked on nuclear transport of HIV-1, a step essential for infection of relevant target cells. I devised an in vitro system to study host cell components important for viral nuclear transport and, in collaboration with Dirk discovered that the nuclear import receptor importin 7 promotes HIV-1 nuclear import. My lab discovered that importin 7 also promotes nuclear import of DNA in general, including mitochondrial DNA.

By studying HIV-1 nuclear import my lab discovered that cellular tRNAs are transported back into the nucleus of human cells in an energy dependent way. This new cellular pathway (now called “retrograde tRNA transport”) is conserved from yeast to humans and it is thought to control cell metabolism by modulating tRNA availability in the cytoplasm. We found that HIV-1 evolved to exploit this pathway to enter the nuclei of infected cells.

With Bart Hoogenboom at the UCL Centre for Nanotechnology we are investigating the biophysical properties of the nuclear pore complex (NPC) to better understand nuclear import of large cargoes such as viruses.

With funding from the MRC, I have recently set up a high-throughput screening facility in the cat3 lab to investigate host-pathogen interactions by chemical genetics and RNAi. Chemical genetics is an approach whereby small molecules are first screened to find “hits” with the desired phenotype and then the hit molecule is used as a tool to identify the target. Using this platform, we have found that Hsp90 is required for HIV-1 gene expression and reactivation from latency. We have also identified a molecule that inhibits HIV-1 integration by targeting the capsid protein. We collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry to identify new targets and small molecules capable of blocking HIV-1 infection or delaying AIDS.

I have contributed to the demonstration that the canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) has a clonal origin and is a cancer transmitted as a cellular parasite. I am collaborating with Michael Stratton and Liz Murchison at the Sanger Institute and Stephan Beck at UCL to understand the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms leading to CTVT regression as a general model for cancer regression.

Teaching Summary

I am the Postgraduate Tutor (Research) for the Division of Infection & Immunity. I am in charge of over 90 students registered in the Division and for the admission of new PhD students. I am the director of the PhD programme.

I lecture for the Molecular Virology course (VIRL3001), the Immunology course (IMM2002) and for the MSc in Infection.

Academic Background
1997 PhD Doctor of Philosophy United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St.. Thomas's Hospitals
1994 SPL Specialist – Neurology Universita degli Studi di Milano
1991 MD Doctor of Medicine – Medicine Universita degli Studi di Milano
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