Faculty & Research

Molecular Biology Faculty

S. Jane Flint

Professor of Molecular Biology

Jane Flint


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Phone (609) 258-6113
locationLewis Thomas Lab, 234
Phone Lab (609) 258-5414
Faculty Assistant
Ellen Brindle-Clark
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Phone (609) 258-5419


Research Focus

Regulation of viral and cellular gene expression in adenovirus-infected cells

Like all viruses, human adenoviruses are molecular parasites that rely on cellular mechanisms for expression of their genetic information. They are therefore excellent model systems for investigation of fundamental cellular processes. Furthermore, several adenoviral genes can contribute to neoplastic transformation of cells in culture and certain adenovirus serotypes are tumorigenic in laboratory animals. Study of these oncogenic viral gene products has provided important insights into the mechanisms that regulate progression through the cell cycle.

The adenoviral infectious cycle can be described in terms of an orderly program of the expression of viral genes that comprise the double-stranded DNA genome, culminating in the synthesis of prodigious quantities of viral macromolecules and inhibition of cellular gene expression. Viral genes are expressed via the cellular biosynthetic machinery, yet infection induces transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms controlling viral and cellular gene expression. Our work aims to elucidate such regulatory events.

Products of the adenoviral E1A gene initially activate transcription of a subset of viral genes by cellular RNA polymerase II, while transcription of other genes later in the infectious cycle requires viral DNA synthesis in the infected cell. To investigate mechanisms of DNA synthesis-dependent activation of transcription, we chose to focus on the late IVa2 promoter and demonstrated that uninfected cells contain a repressor of IVa2-transcription that binds specifically to a sequence superimposed on those of the IVa2 promoter. As adenovirus infection does not lead to inactivation of this cellular transcriptional repressor, we proposed that late phase-specific transcriptional activity of the IVa2 promoter is the result of titration of the cellular repressor following initiation of viral DNA synthesis. As the IVa2 protein is itself an activator of transcription from a second, viral late promoter, the cellular repressor may control a regulatory cascade determining the temporal program of viral gene expression. We have established the validity of the repressor titration model for regulation of expression of the IVa2 gene during the infectious cycle and are currently investigating the identity and mechanisms of action of the cellular repressor using genetic, molecular, and biochemical methods. We are applying similar methods to elucidation of the mechanism(s) by which the IVa2 protein stimulates transcription from the major late promoter.

The early E2E promoter, which controls production of viral replication proteins, was extensively characterized in early studies. More recently, we have established that an RNA polymerase III promoter active in adenovirus infected cells is superimposed on the typical E2E RNA polymerase II promoter. The properties of RNA polymerase III transcription during infection and of the RNA products of such transcription suggest that recognition of the E2E promoter by RNA polymerase III may serve to damp, or set a threshold for, RNA polymerase II transcription. Such a novel regulatory mechanism would ensure that production of replication proteins, and therefore entry into the late phase of infection, take place only when the host cell milieu has been optimized for viral replication by the action of E1A (and other) proteins that induce both entry of infected cells into S phase and efficient RNA polymerase II transcription from the E2E promoter. An important aim of our current studies is, therefore, to establish whether such a novel mechanism of regulation of transcription operates in adenovirus-infected cells.

The inhibition of cellular gene expression characteristic of the late phase of adenovirus infection is in part the result of an unusual post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism, induction of selective export of newly-synthesized viral mRNAs from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. Two viral early proteins, the E1B 55 kDa and the E4 Orf 6 proteins, are required for efficient export of viral mRNAs with concomitant inhibition of export of the majority of newly synthesized cellular mRNA species. These two proteins can also each independently inhibit the activity of the cellular p53 protein, which regulates the response of cells to genotoxic stress and induces cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis. These adenoviral E1B and E4 proteins also cooperate to increase the rate of degradation of the p53 protein. Despite such important roles, the mechanisms by which these early proteins regulate mRNA export and p53 activity and concentration are not well understood. We have demonstrated that the E1B 55 kDa protein is primarily responsible for directing viral late mRNAs for selective export and is required to protect normal diploid, human cells against adeno-virus-induced apoptosis. We are therefore investigating molecular functions of this protein using genetic and biochemical approaches.

Selected Publications

Dehart CJ, Chahal JS, Flint SJ, Perlman DH. (2013) Extensive post-translational modification of active and inactivated forms of endogenous p53. Mol Cell Proteomics. Sep 20. [Epub ahead of print]

Chahal JS, Flint SJ. (2013) The p53 protein does not facilitate adenovirus type 5 replication in normal human cells. J Virol. 87: 6044-6. Pubmed

Chahal JS, Gallagher C, Dehart CJ, Flint SJ. (2013) The repression domain of the E1B 55 kDa protein participates in countering interferon-induced inhibition of adenovirus replication. J Virol. 87: 4432-44. Pubmed

Kato SE, Chahal JS, Flint SJ. (2012) Reduced infectivity of adenovirus type 5 particles and degradation of entering viral genomes associated with incomplete processing of the pre-terminal protein. J Virol. 86: 13554-65. Pubmed

Chahal JS, Qi J, Flint SJ. (2012) The human adenovirus type 5 E1B 55 kDa protein obstructs inhibition of viral replication by type I interferon in normal human cells. PLoS Pathog. 8: e1002853. Pubmed

Chahal JS, Flint SJ. (2012) Timely synthesis of the adenovirus type 5 E1B 55-kilodalton protein is required for efficient genome replication in normal human cells. J Virol. 86: 3064-3072. PubMed

Yatherajam G, Huang W, Flint SJ. (2010) Export of adenoviral late mRNA from the nucleus requires the Nxf1/Tap export receptor. J Virol. 85: 1429-1438. PubMed

Miller DL, Rickards B, Mashiba M, Huang W, Flint SJ. (2009) The adenoviral E1B 55-kilodalton protein controls expression of immune response genes but not p53-dependent transcription. J Virol. 83: 3591-3603. PubMed

LeRoy G, Rickards B, Flint SJ. (2008) The double bromodomain proteins Brd2 and Brd3 couple histone acetylation to transcription. Mol Cell 30: 51-60. PubMed

Miller DL, Myers CL, Rickards B, Coller HA, Flint SJ. (2007) Adenovirus type 5 exerts genome-wide control over cellular programs governing proliferation, quiescence, and survival. Genome Biol 8: R58. PubMed

Rickards B, Flint SJ, Cole MD, Leroy G. (2006) Nucleolin is required for RNA polymerase I transcription in vivo. Mol Cell Biol 27: 937-948. PubMed

Ali H, Leroy G, Bridge G, Flint SJ. (2006) The adenoviral L4 33 kDa protein binds to intragenic sequences of the major late promoter required for late phase-specific stimulation of transcription. J Virol 81: 1327-1338. PubMed

Gonzalez R, Huang W, Finnen R, Bragg C, Flint SJ. (2006) Adenovirus E1B 55-kilodalton protein is required for both regulation of mRNA export and efficient entry into the late phase of infection in normal human fibroblasts. J Virol 80: 964-974. PubMed

Flint SJ, Huang W, Goodhouse J, Kyin S. (2005) A peptide inhibitor of exportin1 blocks shuttling of the adenoviral E1B 55 kDa protein but not export of viral late mRNAs. Virology 337: 7-17. PubMed

Iftode C, Flint SJ. (2004) Viral DNA synthesis-dependent titration of a cellular repressor activates transcription of the human adenovirus type 2 IVa2 gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101: 17831-17836. PubMed

Flint SJ, Gonzalez RA. (2003) Regulation of mRNA production by the adenoviral E1B 55-kDa and E4 Orf6 proteins. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol 272: 287-330. PubMed

Flint SJ, Enquist L, Racaniello V, Skalka A. (2003) Priciples of Virology: Molecular Biology, Pathogenesis and Control of Animal Viruses, 2nd Edition ed. American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington D.C.

Huang W, Kiefer J, Whalen D, Flint SJ. (2003) DNA synthesis-dependent relief of repression of transcription from the adenovirus type 2 IVa(2) promoter by a cellular protein. Virology 314: 394-402. PubMed

Huang W, Flint SJ. (2003) Unusual properties of adenovirus E2E transcription by RNA polymerase III. J Virol 77: 4015-4024. PubMed

Gonzalez RA, Flint SJ. (2002) Effects of mutations in the adenoviral E1B 55-kilodalton protein coding sequence on viral late mRNA metabolism. J Virol 76: 4507-4519. PubMed

Brown LM, Gonzalez RA, Novotny J, Flint SJ. (2001) Structure of the adenovirus E4 Orf6 protein predicted by fold recognition and comparative protein modeling. Proteins 44: 97-109.

Ellsworth D, Finnen RL, Flint SJ. (2001) Superimposed promoter sequences of the adenoviral E2 early RNA polymerase III and RNA polymerase II transcription units. J Biol Chem 276: 827-834. PubMed

Finnen RL, Biddle JF, Flint SJ. (2001) Truncation of the human adenovirus type 5 L4 33kDa protein: evidence for an essential role of the carboxy-terminus in the viral infectious cycle. Virology 289: 388-399. PubMed

Lin HJ, Flint SJ. (2000) Identification of a cellular repressor of transcription of the adenoviral late IVa(2) gene that is unaltered in activity in infected cells. Virology 277: 397-410. PubMed

Huang W, Flint SJ. (1998) The tripartite leader sequence of subgroup C adenovirus major late mRNAs can increase the efficiency of mRNA export. J Virol 72: 225-235. PubMed

Flint SJ, Shenk T. (1997) Viral transactivating proteins. Annu Rev Genet 31: 177-212. PubMed

Yang VW, Lerner MR, Steitz JA, Flint SJ. (1981) A small nuclear ribonucleoprotein is required for splicing of adenoviral early RNA sequences. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 78: 1371-1375. PubMed


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