Thesis Defense Announcement
To:  The George Mason University Community

Candidate: Tyler Lark

Program: M.S. in Biology
Date:   Friday November 17, 2017
Time:   2:30 PM
Place:  Bull Run Hall, Room 247
             George Mason University
Science & Tech Campus

Title: “Efficacy of Host-Kinase Inhibitors as Antiviral Agents Against Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus”
Committee Chair: Dr. Aarthi Narayanan
Committee Members:
 Dr. Kylene Kehn-Hall, Dr. Ancha Baranova


This is a public defense and all are invited to attend.
Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Virus (VEEV) is a New World alphavirus that is naturally transmitted through mosquito vectors resulting in human infections. This virus is classified as a category B pathogen and a select agent as it retains infectivity when transmitted as an aerosol.  There is currently no therapeutic or vaccine candidate that is available to the civilian population for the treatment of VEEV exposures. With the ability of viruses to develop resistance to antiviral strategies that target viral components, it will be of strategic value to target specific host proteins to inhibit the viral life-cycle. Such host-based therapeutic candidates are also likely to find broad spectrum applicability in the treatment of other viral pathogens in addition to VEEV. We show that inhibition of host kinases, AP2-associated protein kinase 1 (AAK1) and cyclin G-associated kinase (GAK), associated with clathrin-mediated endocytosis and intracellular trafficking results in a decrease of VEEV load in infected cells. siRNA knockdown of AAK and GAK yielded a decrease in viral titers along with alteration of viral protein levels. The small molecules azaindole and erlotinib (FDA approved) were found to have strong antiviral properties as well as being relatively non-cytotoxic. Both drugs affected the ability of the virion to traffic effectively throughout the cell, preventing the movement from the plasma membrane and potentially, the ER network. Time of addition experiments showed that the drugs exhibit therapeutic potential, as both worked against established infections. These results show the effectiveness of AAK and GAK inhibitors in inhibiting VEEV infection. Ongoing research is exploring the mechanisms involved in this inhibitory process.