Herpesvirus Research Lab (HeRL) - The Spencer Lab at USF


Research in our lab is focused on human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), which infects more than 70% of the general population but usually causes serious disease only in immune compromised individuals like transplant recipients, AIDS patients, and neonates. HCMV is a member of the herpes virus family, a group of large DNA viruses that have the ability to establish lifelong infections in their hosts. In a healthy host, the immune response is usually sufficient to prevent disease, but not strong enough to completely eliminate the virus.


Current projects are centered around the numerous gene products HCMV encodes to modulate the host immune system. One of these gene products is a homolog of cellular interleukin-10, a potent regulator of immune responses. Despite having only 27% sequence identity to the human IL-10, cmvIL-10 has potent immune suppressive properties. Our most recent studies are investigating whether cmvIL-10 might stimulate tumor progression through immune suppression and stimulation of genes that promote invasion and metastasis.


Another active area of research in our lab is the study of viral chemokine receptors, and in particular the orphan receptor US27. Although no cellular ligands for US27 have been identified, we believe that US27 may alter migration of immune cells through internalization of cellular chemokine receptors. The results of these studies are expected to enhance our understanding of HCMV pathogenesis and potentially aid in the development of new treatment strategies for HCMV infection.

Juliet V. Spencer, Robin K. Bishop, Cendy Valle Oseguera, Carolyn Tu

Herpesvirus Research Laboratory (HeRL)

University of San Francisco (USF)