Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Recommended prerequisites are:

7.03 Genetics

7.05 General Biochemistry

7.06 Cell Biology

7.28 Molecular Biology

Course Description

Co-evolution and adaptation between viruses and humans are often portrayed as a zero-sum biological arms race. Viruses enter host cells equipped with an array of mechanisms to evade the host defense responses and replicate. The rapid rate of mutation of viruses permits evolution of various methodologies for infection, which in turn drive development of non-specific but highly effective host mechanisms to restrict infection.

This class will discuss the varied solutions each side has developed as a means for survival. Focus will be on protein-protein interactions, host mimicry, intra-cellular trafficking, hijacking of host-cell machinery and up-regulation of multiple signaling pathways and subsequent induction of antiviral proteins. We will use examples drawn from human disease-causing pathogens that contribute seriously to the global health burden, including HIV, influenza and dengue virus. Primary research papers will be discussed to help students learn to pose scientific questions and design and conduct experiments to answer the questions and critically interpret data. We will visit a local biotechnology company to learn how the knowledge and techniques discussed in class are being applied towards vaccine development.


The course will meet weekly, and two original papers from the research literature will be discussed each week. Students are expected to read both papers in advance and to be prepared for a round-table discussion (with the exception of week 1, when the instructors will provide an overview of the course material). The emphasis will be on critical reading of key papers in the field of protein virus-host interactions, both at the data and conceptual levels. At the end of each session, the instructors will present an introduction to the topic of the following week's assigned reading.


This course is graded pass/fail. The grading will be based on regular participation in the weekly meetings as well as on the midterm written assignment and the end of term oral presentation.


1 Introduction and Course Overview  
2 Host Sensors of Viral Infection-I  
3 Host Sensors of Viral Infection-II: The Road to Interferon (IFN) Production Runs through the Mitochondria  
4 Secreted IFN – In the Extracellular Space, No One Can Hear You Scream  
5 Vaccines: We Win, Finally. Not So Fast  
6 Trip to Sanofi/Pasteur Field Trip to Sanofi/Pasteur
7 A New Player in the Puzzle of Filovirus Entry into Host Cells Written Assignment Due
8 IFN Signaling: United STATs and the Rule of V  
9 Mechanisms of Human Cytomegalovirus Infection and Restriction  
10 HIV Restriction Factors and Mechanism of Evasion  
11 Interferon-Induced Transmembrane (IFITM) Proteins as Restriction Factors for Influenza Virus  
12 End-Term Final Assignment End of Term Final Assignment