Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Berns, Kenneth I.
Location University of Florida
Primary Field Microbial Biology
 Election Citation
Berns has pioneered research on the mechanism of viral replication. He has been a major contributor to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying replication of single-stranded viral DNA, the integration of viral DNA into the host-cell genome, and viral latency.
 Research Interests
For over twenty-five years I have studied the molecular biology of adeno-associated virus (AAV) infection. AAV is a cryptic virus which infects greater than 90 percent of people, but has never been found to cause disease. Our current model of the life cycle of the virus is that infection of healthy cells leads to integration of the viral genome to establish a latent infection, which is maintained until the host cell is stressed severely. Stress triggers activation of the genome, which leads to virus multiplication. Our major studies have concerned viral DNA replication, regulation of gene expression, and integration of the viral genome. Integration of the viral genome is of particular interest, because it is the only known example of site specific recombination between an exogenous DNA and the genome of a mammalian cell. The specific site of integration has been mapped to chromosome 19q13.1-qter, cloned, sequenced, and characterized genetically. The necessary chromosomal signal sequences have been identified and we now have a model for the integration event. More recently, the properties of AAV have made it a prime candidate to be a vector for gene therapy. I have become involved in modification of the virus to enhance this possibility.

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