Dissertation Defense Announcement
To:  The George Mason University Community

Candidate: Elizabeth Liu

Program: PhD in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology

Date:   Friday, December 4, 2015

Time:   2:00 PM
Place:  George Mason University
             Science & Tech (Prince William) Campus
             Bull Run Hall, Room 249

Title: "Computational Analysis of Human Adenovirus Evolution and Development of Bioinformatics Tools"
Committee Chair: Dr. Donald Seto
Committee Members:  Dr. Jason Kinser, Dr. Dmitri Klimov, Dr. Andrea Weeks

A copy of the dissertation is available in the Gateway Library.  All are invited to attend the defense.
Human adenoviruses (HAdVs) may be highly contagious and may be human pathogens. The virus can cause a wide range of illnesses including respiratory, gastrointestinal and ocular infections. Individual with immune deficiency are especially prone to such infections, which lead to fatalities. Even though adenoviruses continue to cause notable mortality and morbidity in human population, their existence may provide a possible benefit for patients with broader range of illness as well. In recent studies, adenoviruses have been used in gene therapy and vaccine development. Bioinformatics and genomics are high-resolution approaches and resources available for studying the adenovirus at such level. Recombination is a driving force in the molecular evolution of human adenoviruses. Computational analysis of this event can provide a better understanding of the role recombination plays in the human adenovirus evolution and pathology, which may later provide for a rational design of vaccines and for gene delivery vector development. Custom developed bioinformatics tools will also help to facilitate the process of analysis and its presentation.   In the course of this project, the genomes of three respiratory and gastrointestinal pathogens, HAdV-B16, B21, D58 and D59, were analyzed using bioinformatics tools to understand their origins and evolution as pathogens including changes in their genomes. To facilitate this, several tools were developed to help this genome analysis. The analysis of both HAdV-B16 and HAdV-B21, as archived 1950s prototypes, provided examples of  then a novel and emergent HAdVs arising as the result of genome recombination events with simian adenoviruses. Recently emergent HAdV-D58 and HAdV-D59 are novel pathogens that are characterized by genome sequencing and analysis. Their results have shown also that recombination plays an important role in their molecular evolution.