ESR2 – Uncovering viral-host interplays in Varicella-Zoster Virus infection through mass spectrometry-based proteomics

Max Planck Institute, Martinsried, Germany



Student: Virginie Girault

Supervisor: Prof. Andreas Pichlmair




Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) belongs to the family of Human alpha Herpesviruses. It infects 95% of young children in temperate climate regions and causes mostly varicella (chicken pox) and herpes zoster (shingles). In rare but more serious cases, VZV triggers neuronal diseases such encephalitis, vasculopathies and ocular affections.


Acyclovir is the main drug used to treat VZV infection but its efficiency remains not fully satisfying, in particular during occurrence of severe complications. A Varicella vaccine was shown to be effective in preventing the disease, however the long-term protection of vaccination still requires to be shown. The deficit in therapeutic coverage of the infection highlights a need for continuous research on both VZV biology and new valuable treatments.


Similarly to other alpha Herpesviruses, VZV is not completely removed from the organism after the primary infection as it spreads from skin to neural tissues where it can establish life-long latent infection. Consequently, infected individuals, especially those with a weakened immune system, such as elderly and immunocompromised patients, are susceptible to reactivation of VZV infection and associated neuronal disorders. VZV triggers an anti-viral response in infected tissues and immune cells, which leads to major changes in the cellular protein composition and function. Concurrently, the virus interacts with these host proteins and mediates changes in the whole proteome, to either evade the immune system, or promote its own replication.


We use mass spectrometry based proteomic approaches to uncover the interplay between viral and human proteins. In particular, in this project, we aim to generate an integrated map of the VZV and host protein interactions network and elucidate cellular pathways modulated in virally infected cells. Thereby deciphering the global proteome landscape of VZV infection in human cells, we will be able to identify key factors as candidates for targeted therapies against VZV.





Contact details

Andreas Pichlmair, Research group leader Innate Immunity laboratory

Max-Planck Institute for Biochemistry

Am Klopferspitz 18

D-82152 Martinsried / Munich


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