The lab focuses on studying the retroviral enzyme integrase and its role in infection. Integrase is a key enzyme for every retrovirus. It allows the reverse-transcribed viral DNA be integrated into the DNA of the host, leading to a permanent and irreversible infection. A plethora of biochemical events during the process of integration are not well understood, for example how the integrase “chooses” the site of integration on host DNA, and conversely – how the “chosen” site affects disease outcomes of infection.
We are particularly interested in the integrase of the human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1). There is no successful therapeutic or preventative regimen for HTLV-1. Many of the ~20 million HTLV-1 infected people will develop severe leukaemia or an ALS-like motor disease, unless a therapy becomes available. It is therefore essential to further our understanding of this virus and develop therapies to inhibit transmission or block the onset/development of HTLV-1 associated diseases.
Interaction between the retroviral integrase and the host-cellular machinery
The Maertens lab has been at the forefront of integrase research for years. We were the first to solve the molecular structure of the deltaretrovirus integrase and identify the complex with the HTLV integrase host factor – PP2A B56. Currently, we are interested in furthering these findings into how the integrase machinery interacts with the host chromatin and other cellular factors.
Inhibitors of HTLV-1
We are currently exploring the possibility of using integrase strand-transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) as possible therapy for HTLV-1. INSTIs have been used for years in HIV-1 treatment with great results. We recently identified that many of these inhibitors also inhibit HTLV-1 IN and limit infection in vitro.
HTLV-1 integration site targeting
The site of integration is one of the main determinants of the outcome of HTLV-1 infection. We are interested in identifying and characterizing host-factors for delta- and other retroviral INs involved in targeting of integration and post-integration repair.
We are always looking for talented students to join the lab. For undergraduate and postgraduate student positions, please contact Dr Maertens directly.
We are currently looking to hire an experienced research technician. The post is for 4 years and is funded by the MRC. Find more details here: