BBS Faculty Member - Donald Coen

Donald Coen

Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Harvard Medical School
BCMP, Seeley G. Mudd Bldg., Rm. 304D
250 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-1691
Fax: 617-432-3833
Lab Members: 6 postdoctoral fellows, 2 graduate students
Visit my lab page here.

Our laboratory takes molecular approaches to herpesvirus replication and latency. These studies provide excellent models for biological processes in eukaryotic cells and, because herpesviruses such as herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) are important pathogens, to exploit differences between herpesvirus and cellular processes for safe and effective antiviral therapy. Areas of research include:

Novel post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. Current projects focus on the roles of microRNAs and unusual translational mechanisms during HSV infection.

Herpesvirus DNA replication proteins: Projects include determining the 3-D structures of these proteins (with the Hogle lab) and exploring their interactions with each other, cellular proteins, and nucleic acids via biochemical, mutational, and biophysical approaches, including (with the Golan and Loparo labs) single molecule methods. These studies should permit detailed understanding of these complicated proteins and rational drug design.

Nuclear egress: How do HCMV nucleocapsids gain access to the inner nuclear membrane and bud through it? Projects include biochemical and biophysical studies of a viral enzyme that mimics cyclin-dependent kinase and of a nuclear egress complex (in collaboration with the Hogle lab), and molecular genetic and cell biological studies of these proteins' functions in infected cells.

Drug targets and development of new therapies. Aside from studies of established drug targets (herpesvirus DNA polymerases and the HCMV protein kinase), projects include discovering new antiviral drugs that inhibit protein-protein interactions, and finding new drug targets by a combination of "chemical genetic" and molecular genetic approaches.

HSV latency/pathogenesis. HSV forms latent infections that persist for the life of the host. How this occurs is biologically fascinating and clinically important. Projects entail molecular genetic, and PCR-based and sequencing methods to explore viral gene regulation especially how microRNAs repress viral gene expression, thereby maintaining latency.

Last Update: 7/27/2015


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Kamil JP, Hume AJ, Jurak I, Münger K, Kalejta RF, Coen DM. Human papillomavirus 16 E7 inactivator of retinoblastoma family proteins complements human cytomegalovirus lacking UL97 protein kinase. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2009; 106:16823-16828.

Strang BL, Boulant S, Kirchhausen T, Coen DM. Host cell nucleolin is required to maintain the architecture of human cytomegalovirus replication compartments. mBio 2012; 3:e00301-00311

Pan D, Coen DM. Net -1 frameshifting on a non-canonical sequence in a herpes simplex virus drug-resistant mutant is stimulated by nonstop mRNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2012; 109:14852-14857.

Sharma M, Kamil JP, Coughlin M, Reim NI, Coen DM. Human cytomegalovirus UL50 and UL53 recruit viral protein kinase UL97, not protein kinase C, for disruption of nuclear lamina and nuclear egress in infected cells. J Virol 2014; 88:249-262

Pan D, Flores O, Umbach JL, Pesola JM, Bentley P, Rosato PC, Leib DA, Cullen BR, Coen DM. A neuron-specific host microRNA targets herpes simplex virus-1 ICP0 expression and promotes latency. Cell Host Microbe 2014; 15:446-456

Leigh KE, Sharma M, Mansueto MS, Boeszoermenyi A, Filman DJ, Hogle JM, Wagner G, Coen DM, Arthanari H.. Structure of a herpesvirus nuclear egress complex subunit reveals an interaction groove that is essential for viral replication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jul 21;112(29):9010-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1511140112. Epub 2015 Jul 6.

Chen H, Beardsley GP, Coen DM.. Mechanism of ganciclovir-induced chain termination revealed by resistant viral polymerase mutants with reduced exonuclease activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 9;111(49):17462-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1405981111. Epub 2014 Nov 24.
PMID: 25422422

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