Another year, another lab photo. I love this tradition. For the last 6(?) years the lab has worked in secret to produce a photo. It started with funny family portraits (here and here). Then moved to a Brady Bunch theme. Then a Vogue cover. Then Bitmoji. And now Hollywood. The creativity is my favorite part.
How do you have a holiday party during COVID19? One of my favorite things is to host holiday parties at our house with the Harrison lab. It is a perfect time to celebrate the community and teamwork of the labs, and enjoy some good food and drink. That was not possible due to COVID19, so we brought the party to the people. We barrel aged and bottled cocktails for our labs, with a precisely tuned and optimized protocol, of course.
Happy to welcome Owen Sullivan to the lab! Owen rotated with Grace, and joined us permanently in December. She is a graduate student in the CMB program and comes with excellent virology chops having earned her masters with Sarah McDonald Esstman at Wake Forest studying rotaviruses. Owen is excited to move to a “simpler” virus, influenza.
Very excited to announce the next step for our polymerase pundit, our RdRP artist, our trimer tyrant Tony Dawson — after his successful defense and a short time to wrap up, Tony is about start to start as a postdoc at New England Biolabs outside of Boston. Yeh, that NEB. He’s using his biochemical skills on RNA and protein to explore new areas at NEB. It is sad to see Tony leave, and there will be a big hole in the lab personality (and a serious drop in the number of puns and bad jokes), but we are also excited for his next step and proud of his career advancement. COVID19 prevented us from having a blowout party worth of Tony, but we did our best with an outdoor BBQ.
We’re lucky enough to have two recent publications in PLOS Pathogens.
Cason penned a great Pearl of viral host factor studies, thinking broadly about what we know, why we know it, and how this creates blind spots. We end with discussions about how new techniques can explore an “undiscovered country” of virus:host interactions. Cason is working hard to push this envelope with his own new techniques, so stay tuned for our answer to some of these questions.
Tony published another one of his thesis chapters. Prior work in the lab, including that from Tony, had investigated the role of phosphorylation in control viral RNP assembly. Tony now investigated whether phosphorylation could directly control the polymerase. He identified and characterized phosphorylation sites on PB1, the catalytic polymerase subunit. His work nicely showed that phosphorylation can control RNA binding and even bias the polymerase towards replication by shutting down transcription. Recent structures of the polymerase allowed us to put our findings into context as the polymerase cycles through each step needed for replication or transcription.
I-FIT you not, our paper is finally out at Nature Microbiology (thanks for the pun Mitch). Check it out here.
This is an exciting story where things aren’t always what they seem. It has 3 CRISPR screens, CLIP-Seq, ribosome profiling, and some good old-fashioned virology. We showed that IFIT2 and IFIT3, proteins classically grouped as anti-viral proteins, instead play a pro-viral role for influenza A virus. Vy and Mitch are co-first authors. Vy initiated this project with a clever genome-wide CRISPR screen and validation, followed by a deep dive into mechanism by Mitch and his impressive bioinformatic skills. IFIT2 binds and boosts translation of influenza virus mRNAs. Not only did we understand why IFIT2 is pro-viral for influenza virus, by defining its function we likely explained why it is anti-viral for others. It was a wonderful collaboration with many other groups, including Van Thamamongood in the Schwemmle lab who got very similar results from her independent CRISPR screen. So much better to collaborate than to rush out competing stories.
Kaitlin at the bench.
We are happy/sad to say farewell to post-doc Kaitlin Davis. We are extremely happy to see her move on to a dream job. Kaitlin is the innaugural Program and Grants Manager for Additional Ventures. She is helping to build a research portfolio focussed on single ventricle defects, a congenital heart defect in newborns. This is an amazing opportunity — one that exploits Kaitlin’s critical thinking and leadership skill — and we couldn’t be happier.
But, we are sad to lose her as a colleague and team member. She has a few exciting science stories that are still cooking in the lab, so stay tuned. We couldn’t have the normal farewell blowout. Instead, we enjoyed a nice socially distanced picnic and beers. She gave the lab a stupendous farewell gift, adopting some fancy chickens at a local farm for us. She did her best to match lab members with chicken breeds. See below if you think she nailed it.
We are looking for a new postdoc to join our team studying influenza virus and how it exploits the host (even turning antiviral proteins proviral!). Check out the announcement. Drop Andy a line with any questions and then send in your application.
The hits keep coming for Tony, PhD. Congrats on a successful thesis defense, and great graduate career. Keep your eyes peeled for a few more papers to round out his thesis.
Congrats to Tony for the publication of his paper in Annual Reviews of Virology. We were very excited to be invited to write this review with our mass spec collaborator Josh Coon and his student Gary Wilson. Check out Post-translation Regulation of Influenza Virus Replication.
A few more farewells:
Jo (Supasek) Kongsomros returns to Thailand. Jo was a visiting scientist using his Royal Golden Jubilee PhD scholarship to spend part of his PhD in our lab. Jo is from Mahidol University in Bangkok working under Dr. Arunee Thitithanyanont. We were lucky to have him in the group. Despite the CoV-related shutdown, Jo made amazing progress in a short time (kudos to his mentor Cason too for making it such a successful visit).
Abby Hoover, undergrad extraordinaire, leaves us for the NIH. She will be a postbaccalaureate researcher in the IRTA program.
LSRF-yeah! CoV got you down? Us too. That is why it was all the more exciting to learn that Cason received a Life Sciences Research Foundation fellowship. CONGRATS! LSRF fellows are selected from a highly competitive international pool of application. ~1000 people apply, and about 25 awards are made. This is an amazing honor for Cason reflecting his stellar graduate work and ambitious postdoc proposal. We are thankful to LSRF and thrilled to bask in the LSRF glow that shines over the lab too. Can’t wait to see what his project brings.
We lift a glass to toast Gloria and wish her well on her new adventure. (We do this virtually, given that we are all following safe social distancing guidelines). Gloria joined the lab in December of 2014 and quickly got to work exploiting natural difference in gene expression to identify cellular factors that impact influenza virus replication. She is taking here expertise to the CDC where she is an ORISE fellow. Congrats and good luck Gloria.
what happened to winter 2020? Oh yeh, SAR-CoV-2
Lots happened, the university shut down, but the lab kept moving forward.
Ready for the annual holiday lab party? ✅
Congratulations Dr. Larson. Gloria successfully defended her PhD. An excellent seminar to a packed room, followed by a great performance in the closed-door exam. Excited to see her next steps as she finishes interviewing for postdocs.
Heading to Kansas for a visit with Tony Fehr. Excited to hear about the work there. Also need to talk to the person who made this poster to learn how they really feel about influenza virus.
Grace has an F30 under review this week. She set up a little shrine to the gods of Impact Score, and lab members have left offerings. Depending out the outcome, maybe this will be a new lab tradition.
(PS: Seems to have worked. Expect more lab shrines.)
Grace and Andy have a chapter that was just accepted as part the new book “Influenza: The Cutting Edge” edited by Yoshi Kawaoka and Gabrielle Neumann. Keep your eyes out for our chapter: Experimental Approaches to Identify Host Factors Important for Influenza Virus. When finished, the entire book should be open access and a great resource to the community. Nice work Grace.
You had me at “accepted in principle.” Our paper on EPS8 has gone from a pre-print at biorxiv to in press at Cell Reports. Congrats to Gloria, Vy, Christina and Steve from the lab, and our collaborators in the groups of Jens Kuhn and Sheli Rhadoshitzky.
Andy had a fun trip to Options X in Singapore where he got to present the lab’s work in the Viral Replication session. Really exciting science and great to connect with colleagues (e.g. Anice Lowen and Seema Lakdawala below).
Another year, another Hodonger Merrison 4-lab pic, with the Hoskins lab, the Willdonger lab, the Harrison lab and ours. This is the 6th year running. Not yet sure if it is cute or cult-like that the lab showed up in their matching tie-dyes from Christina’s farewell party.
#ASV2019 here we come. Hope to see you at our talks and posters.
Traitors? Andy and lab alum Vy just co-authored a paper on bacterial pathogenesis. They helped Laurie Ristow in Rod Welch’s lab study cellular receptors for the hemolysin toxin produced by uropathogenic E. coli. This was a tour-de-force by Laurie, requiring a QUINTUPLE knockout made by CRISPR/Cas9 to show that the beta subunit of beta2 integrins is sufficient for hemolysin cytotoxicity. See this exciting story here.
Andy took a trip recently. Does this make it a work trip? #worklifebalance
Do you like hanging out with sweaty people in spandex? (duh, of course!) Some of the MehleLab will be doing The Chillest Century Ever, or parts of it, on July 6. How can you go wrong with coffee, hotdogs, donuts, beer and ice cream, all under the guise of doing something healthful? Give a shout if you want to connect.
Welcome Liz Feltman! Liz joins us as a research specialist after two years of experience working at UW Madison as an undergrad researcher and two more years working in industry. We’re excited to have her join Team Flu.
One of the fun things about reading and reviewing papers is being asked to synthesize data and write commentaries of particularly interesting studies. Steve and Andy were asked to write an eLife Insight on the recent ANP32 papers from the Barclay and Wang labs. Unlike most scientific writing we do, this was specifically geared to a lay audience so has a different tone than most of our work. You’re supposed to be able to read it under 8 minutes. Can you? Try it here.
Working hard at the GRC. Gloria gave a great poster (x2, for both sessions) and Tony rocked his talk. We might have also stolen some time to enjoy the great location.
GR-C you there? The Mehle lab is heading to the GRC Viruses and Cells meeting.Both Tony and Gloria were accepted to the meeting, and Andy will be there as well. Stop by Gloria’s poster to hear about her pre-print on EPS8 as entry factor for flu, listen to Tony’s talk that builds on our phosphorylation studies, or come chat with Andy about anti-viral proteins that have been corrupted to perform pro-viral functions.
We won! (not really). Another year, another Monona 5k/20k. We ran as a team and we were the fastest virus-themed group (we were also the only virus-themed group, but stop splitting hairs). It was a beautiful day and fun for all of us. Glad we were joined by those who don’t normally run and several honorary lab members.
Heading to Halifax for a visit hosted by Craig McCormick. Very excited to meet the great community there. Tried this last fall, and got as close as 200 ft from the ground, but couldn’t land due to fog. Ever have a flight track like this? After being diverted, we ultimately flew back to Newark (KEWR) and then on to Madison, having spent 19hr traveling to go nowhere.
For the second year in a row, Kaitlin represents the MehleLab in Sun Prairie to observe Jimmy the Groundhog. Jimmy saw his shadow, meaning an early spring (and that the reviews of our papers this spring will all be favorable).
Only in Wisconsin. A meat judging competition was held on campus, and the leftovers were given away. In grad student tradition, the lab pounced on the chance for free food, hence, the first ever Mehle Meat Swap. I mean, what could go wrong with cured meats of questionable provenance shared in a microbiology building?