Barbara Ensoli

Robert Koch Institut, Berlín, Berlin, Germany

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Publications (226)985.41 Total impact

  • No preview · Article · Dec 2016 · Retrovirology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Novel strategies are being researched to discover vaccines to prevent and treat HIV-1. Non-efficacious preventative vaccine approaches include bivalent recombinant gp120 alone, HIV gene insertion into an Adenovirus 5 (Ad5) virus vector and the DNA prime/Ad5 boost vaccine regimen. However, the ALVAC-HIV prime/AIDSVAX® B/E gp120 boost regimen showed 31.2% efficacy at 3.5 years, and is being investigated as clade C constructs with an additional boost. Likewise, although multiple therapeutic vaccines have failed in the past, in a non-placebo controlled trial, a Tat vaccine demonstrated immune cell restoration, reduction of immune activation, and reduced HIV-1 DNA viral load. Monoclonal antibodies for passive immunization or treatment show promise, with VRC01 entering advanced clinical trials.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2016 · Current Opinion in Virology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mucosal HSV infection remains a public health issue in developing and developed world. However, an effective vaccine is still missing, partly because of the incomplete knowledge of correlates of protection. In this study we have investigated the kinetics and quality of immunity elicited by an attenuated HSV1 vector expressing the immunomodulatory Tat protein of HIV-1 (HSV1-Tat). Animals were immunized by intravaginal (IVag) or intradermal (ID) route with HSV1-Tat or with a control HSV1 vector expressing the LacZ gene (HSV1-LacZ) and immune responses were characterized in different anatomical districts. IVag immunization with HSV1-Tat enhanced both expansion and memory phases of HSV-specific immunodominant CD8 responses at systemic, but not local, level and induced short- and long-term protection against mucosal challenge. Conversely, ID immunization with HSV1-Tat favored HSV-subdominant CD8 responses, which protected mice only at early time points after immunization. IVag immunization, in particular with HSV1-Tat, compared to ID immunization, induced the differentiation of CD8(+) T lymphocytes into short-lived effector (SLEC) and effector memory (Tem) cells, generating more robust recall responses associated with increased control of virus replication. Notably, systemic SLEC and Tem contributed to generate protective local secondary responses, demonstrating their importance for mucosal control of HSV. Finally, IgG responses were observed mostly in IVag HSV1-Tat immunized animals, although seemed dispensable for protection, which occurred even in few IgG negative mice. Thus, HSV1 vectors expressing Tat induce protective anti-HSV1 immune responses.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2016 · Vaccine
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Introduction: Classical approaches aimed at targeting the HIV-1 envelope as well as other structural viral proteins have largely failed. The HIV-1 transactivator of transcription (Tat) is a key HIV virulence factor, which plays pivotal roles in virus gene expression, replication, transmission and disease progression. Notably, anti-Tat Abs are uncommon in natural infection and, when present, correlate with the asymptomatic state and lead to lower or no disease progression. Hence, targeting Tat represents a pathogenesis-driven intervention. Areas covered: Here, we review the rationale and the translational development of a therapeutic vaccine targeting the Tat protein. Preclinical and Phase I studies, Phase II trials with Tat in anti-Tat Ab-negative, virologically suppressed highly active antiretroviral therapy-treated subjects in Italy and South Africa were conducted. The results indicate that Tat-induced immune responses are necessary to restore immune homeostasis, to block the replenishment and to reduce the size of the viral reservoir. Additionally, they may help in establishing key parameters for highly active antiretroviral therapy intensification and a functional cure. Expert opinion: We propose the therapeutic setting as the most feasible to speed up the testing and comparison of preventative vaccine candidates, as the distinction lies in the use of the vaccine in uninfected versus infected subjects and not in the vaccine formulation.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Expert opinion on biological therapy
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The use of the Tat protein of HIV in vaccines against AIDS showed promising results in primate and human studies. To characterize the impact of the administration route on the induction of humoral responses at systemic and mucosal levels, we compared intradermal, intramuscular and mucosal immunizations with Tat and a Tat-derived peptide. Mice were immunized with the Tat protein by different routes and the titer and isotype of anti-Tat antibodies were assessed in serum and mucosal lavages. Intramuscular and intradermal administrations showed comparable immunogenicity, while the mucosal administration was unable to induce IgM in serum and IgG at mucosal sites but showed superior immunogenicity in terms of IgA induction. Anti-Tat antibodies were also obtained upon vaccination with the immunodominant Tat 1-20 peptide which was, however, less immunogenic than the whole Tat protein.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Here we describe a prime-boost regimen of vaccination in Macaca fascicularis that combines priming with novel anionic microspheres designed to deliver the biologically active HIV-1 Tat protein and boosting with Tat in Alum. This regimen of immunization modulated the IgG subclass profile and elicited a balanced Th1-Th2 type of humoral and cellular responses. Remarkably, following intravenous challenge with SHIV89.6Pcy243, vaccinees significantly blunted acute viremia, as compared to control monkeys, and this control was associated with significantly lower CD4+ T cell depletion rate during the acute phase of infection and higher ability to resume the CD4+ T cell counts in the post-acute and chronic phases of infection. The long lasting control of viremia was associated with the persistence of high titers anti-Tat antibodies whose profile clearly distinguished vaccinees in controllers and viremics. Controllers, as opposed to vaccinated and viremic cynos, exhibited significantly higher pre-challenge antibody responses to peptides spanning the glutamine-rich and the RGD-integrin-binding regions of Tat. Finally, among vaccinees, titers of anti-Tat IgG1, IgG3 and IgG4 subclasses had a significant association with control of viremia in the acute and post-acute phases of infection. Altogether these findings indicate that the Tat/H1D/Alum regimen of immunization holds promise for next generation vaccines with Tat protein or other proteins for which maintenance of the native conformation and activity are critical for optimal immunogenicity. Our results also provide novel information on the role of anti-Tat responses in the prevention of HIV pathogenesis and for the design of new vaccine candidates.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many attempts have been made or are ongoing for HIV prevention and HIV cure. Many successes are in the list, particularly for HIV drugs, recently proposed also for prevention. However, no eradication of infection has been achieved so far with any drug. Further, a residual immune dysregulation associated to chronic immune activation and incomplete restoration of B and T cell subsets, together with HIV DNA persistence in reservoirs, are still unmet needs of the highly active antiretroviral therapy, causing novel "non-AIDS related" diseases that account for a higher risk of death even in virologically suppressed patients. These "ART unmet needs" represent a problem, which is expected to increase by ART roll out. Further, in countries such as South Africa, where six millions of individuals are infected, ART appears unable to contain the epidemics. Regretfully, all the attempts at developing a preventative vaccine have been largely disappointing. However, recent therapeutic immunization strategies have opened new avenues for HIV treatment, which might be exploitable also for preventative vaccine approaches. For example, immunization strategies aimed at targeting key viral products responsible of virus transmission, activation, and maintenance of virus reservoirs may intensify drug efficacy and lead to a functional cure providing new perspectives also for prevention and future virus eradication strategies. However, this approach imposes new challenges to the scientific community, vaccine developers, and regulatory bodies, such as the identification of novel immunological and virological biomarkers to assess efficacy end-points, taking advantage from the natural history of infection and exploiting lessons from former trials. This review will focus first on recent advancement of therapeutic strategies, then on the progresses made in preventative approaches, discussing concepts, and problems for the way ahead for the development of vaccines for HIV treatment and prevention.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Frontiers in Immunology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV1 and HSV2) are common infectious agents in both industrialized and developing countries. They cause recurrent asymptomatic and/or symptomatic infections, and life-threatening diseases and death in newborns and immunocompromised patients. Current treatment for HSV relies on antiviral medications, which can halt the symptomatic diseases but cannot prevent the shedding that occurs in asymptomatic patients or, consequently, the spread of the viruses. Therefore, prevention rather than treatment of HSV infections has long been an area of intense research, but thus far effective anti-HSV vaccines still remain elusive. One of the key hurdles to overcome in anti-HSV vaccine development is the identification and effective use of strategies that promote the emergence of Th1-type immune responses against a wide range of epitopes involved in the control of viral replication. Since the HIV1 Tat protein has several immunomodulatory activities and increases CTL recognition of dominant and subdominant epitopes of heterologous antigens, we generated and assayed a recombinant attenuated replication-competent HSV1 vector containing the tat gene (HSV1-Tat). In this proof-of-concept study we show that immunization with this vector conferred protection in 100% of mice challenged intravaginally with a lethal dose of wild-type HSV1. We demonstrate that the presence of Tat within the recombinant virus increased and broadened Th1-like and CTL responses against HSV-derived T-cell epitopes and elicited in most immunized mice detectable IgG responses. In sharp contrast, a similarly attenuated HSV1 recombinant vector without Tat (HSV1-LacZ), induced low and different T cell responses, no measurable antibody responses and did not protect mice against the wild-type HSV1 challenge. These findings strongly suggest that recombinant HSV1 vectors expressing Tat merit further investigation for their potential to prevent and/or contain HSV1 infection and dissemination.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Objective:The identification of still unrevealed mechanisms affecting the anti-HIV CD8(+) T-cell response in HIV-1 infection.Design:Starting from the observation that anti-Tat immunization is associated with improved CD8(+) T-cell immunity, we developed both in-vitro and ex-vivo assays to characterize the effects of extra-cellular Tat on the adaptive CD8(+) T-cell response.Methods:The effects of Tat on CD8(+) T-cell activation were assayed using CD8(+) T-cell clones specific for either cellular (MART-1) or viral (HIV-1 Nef) antigens, and HIV-1 Gag-specific CD8(+) T cells from HIV-1 patients.Results:The interaction between CD8(+) T lymphocytes and immobilized Tat, but not its soluble form, inhibits peptide-specific CD8(+) T-lymphocyte activation. The inhibition does not depend on Tat trans-activation activity, but on the interaction of the Tat RGD domain with 51 and v3 integrins. Impaired CD8(+) T-cell activation was also observed in cocultures of CD8(+) T cells with HIV-1-infected cells. Anti-Tat Abs abrogate the inhibitory effect, consistently with the evidence that extracellular Tat accumulates on the cell membrane of virus-producing cells. The Tat-induced inhibition of cell activation associates with increased apoptosis of CD8(+) T cells. Finally, the inhibition of cell activation also takes place in Gag-specific CD8(+) T lymphocytes from HIV-1-infected patients.Conclusion:Our results support the idea that CD8(+) T-cell apoptosis induced by surface-bound extracellular Tat can contribute to the dysregulation of the CD8(+) T-cell adaptive response against HIV as well as other pathogens present in AIDS patients.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · AIDS
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Tat is a key HIV-1 virulence factor, which plays pivotal roles in virus gene expression, replication, transmission and disease progression. After release, extracellular Tat accumulates in tissues and exerts effects on both the virus and the immune system, promoting immune activation and virus spreading while disabling the host immune defense. In particular, Tat binds Env spikes on virus particles forming a virus entry complex, which favors infection of dendritic cells and efficient transmission to T cells via RGD-binding integrins. Tat also shields the CCR5-binding sites of Env rendering ineffective virus neutralization by anti-Env antibodies (Abs). This is reversed by the anti-Tat Abs present in natural infection or induced by vaccination. Findings Here we present the results of a cohort study, showing that the presence of anti-Tat Abs in asymptomatic and treatment-naïve HIV-infected subjects is associated with containment of CD4+ T-cell loss and viral load and with a delay of disease progression. In fact, no subjects with high anti-Tat Ab titers initiated antiretroviral therapy during the three years of follow-up. In contrast, no significant effects were seen for anti-Env and anti-Gag Abs. The increase of anti-Env Ab titers was associated with a reduced risk of starting therapy only in the presence of anti-Tat Abs, suggesting an effect of combined anti-Tat and anti-Env Abs on the Tat/Env virus entry complex and on virus neutralization. Conclusions Anti-Tat immunity may help delay HIV disease progression, thus, targeting Tat may offer a novel therapeutic intervention to postpone antiretroviral treatment or to increase its efficacy.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Retrovirology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Objective: HIV infection is characterized by several immune dysfunctions of both CD8⁺ and CD4⁺ T cells as hyperactivation, impairment of functionality and expansion of memory T cells. CD8⁺ T-cell dysfunctions have been associated with increased expression of T-bet, Eomesdermin and pro-inflammatory cytokines, and with down-regulation of CD127. The HIV-1 trans-activator of transcription (Tat) protein, which is released by infected cells and detected in tissues of HIV-positive individuals, is known to contribute to the dysregulation of CD4⁺ T cells; however, its effects on CD8⁺ T cells have not been investigated. Thus, in this study, we sought to address whether Tat may affect CD8⁺ T-cell functionality and programming. Methods: CD8⁺ T cells were activated by T-cell receptor engagement in the presence or absence of Tat. Cytokine production, killing capacity, surface phenotype and expression of transcription factors important for T-cell programming were evaluated. Results: Tat favors the secretion of interleukin-2, interferon-γ and granzyme B in CD8⁺ T cells. Behind this functional modulation we observed that Tat increases the expression of T-bet, Eomesdermin, Blimp-1, Bcl-6 and Bcl-2 in activated but not in unstimulated CD8⁺ T lymphocytes. This effect is associated with the down-regulation of CD127 and the up-regulation of CD27. Conclusion: Tat deeply alters the programming and functionality of CD8⁺ T lymphocytes.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · AIDS (London, England)
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The role of variable regions of HIV-1 gp120 in immune escape of HIV has been investigated. However, there is scant information on how conserved gp120 regions contribute to virus escaping. Here we have studied how molecular sequence characteristics of conserved C3, C4 and V3 regions of clade C HIV-1 gp120 that are involved in HIV entry and are target of the immune response, are modulated during the disease course. We found an increase of "shifting" putative N-glycosylation sites (PNGSs) in the α2 helix (in C3) and in C4 and an increase of sites under positive selection pressure in the α2 helix during the chronic stage of disease. These sites are close to CD4 and to co-receptor binding sites. We also found a negative correlation between electric charges of C3 and V4 during the late stage of disease counteracted by a positive correlation of electric charges of α2 helix and V5 during the same stage. These data allow us to hypothesize possible mechanisms of virus escape involving constant and variable regions of gp120. In particular, new mutations, including new PNGSs occurring near the CD4 and CCR5 binding sites could potentially affect receptor binding affinity and shield the virus from the immune response.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · PLoS ONE
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In addition to contrast human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication, the HIV protease inhibitors (HIV-PI) have reduced tumour incidence or clinical progression in infected patients. In this regard, we have previously shown that, independently of its anti-viral activity, the HIV-PI indinavir (IDV) directly blocks matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 proteolytic activation, thus efficiently inhibiting tumour angiogenesis in vitro, in animal models, and in humans. Herein we investigated the molecular mechanism for IDV anti-angiogenic effect. We found that treatment of human primary endothelial cells with therapeutic IDV concentrations decreases the expression of membrane type (MT)1-MMP, which is the major activator of MMP-2. This occurs for both the constitutive expression of MT1-MMP and that up-regulated by angiogenic factors. In either cases, reduction of MT1-MMP levels by IDV is preceded by the inhibition of the binding of the specificity protein (Sp)1 transcription factor to the promoter region of the MT1-MMP gene in endothelial cell nuclei. As MT1-MMP is key for tumour angiogenesis, these results support the use of IDV or its derivatives in anti-cancer therapy. This is recommended by the low toxicity of the drug, and the large body of data on its pharmacokinetic.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Angiogenesis
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Little is known about the effects of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) haplotypes on immunity to primate lentiviruses involving both acquired and innate immune responses. We present statistical evidence of the influence of MHC polymorphism on antiviral immunity of Mauritian cynomolgus macaques (MCM) following simian/human immunodeficiency virus SHIVSF162P4cy infection, involving the production of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and α-defensins, which may modulate acquired immune responses. During the acute phase of infection, IL-10 correlated positively with viral load and negatively with CD4+T cell counts. Furthermore, α-defensins production was directly correlated with plasma viral RNA, particularly at peak of viral load. When the effects of the MHC were analyzed, a significant association between lower anti-Env binding and neutralizing antibody levels with class IB M4 haplotype and with class IA, IB M4 haplotype, respectively, was observed in the post-acute phase. Lower antibody responses may have resulted into a poor control of infection thus explaining the previously reported lower CD4 T cell counts in these monkeys. Class II M3 haplotype displayed significantly lower acute and post-acute IL-10 levels. In addition, significantly lower levels of α-defensins were detected in class IA M3 haplotype monkeys than in non-M3 macaques, in the post-acute phase of infection. These data indicate that the MHC could contribute to the delicate balance of pro-inflammatory mechanisms, particularly with regard to the association between IL-10 and α-defensins in lentivirus infection. Our results show that host genetic background, virological and immunological parameters should be considered for the design and interpretation of HIV-1 vaccine efficacy studies.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · PLoS ONE
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: T cells are functionally compromised during HIV infection despite their increased activation and proliferation. Although T cell hyperactivation is one of the best predictive markers for disease progression, its causes are poorly understood. Anti-tat natural immunity as well as anti-tat antibodies induced by Tat immunization protect from progression to AIDS and reverse signs of immune activation in HIV-infected patients suggesting a role of Tat in T cell dysfunctionality. The Tat protein of HIV-1 is known to induce, in vitro, the activation of CD4(+) T lymphocytes, but its role on CD8(+) T cells and how these effects modulate, in vivo, the immune response to pathogens are not known. To characterize the role of Tat in T cell hyperactivation and dysfunction, we examined the effect of Tat on CD8(+) T cell responses and antiviral immunity in different ex vivo and in vivo models of antigenic stimulation, including HSV infection. We demonstrate for the first time that the presence of Tat during priming of CD8(+) T cells favors the activation of antigen-specific CTLs. Effector CD8(+) T cells generated in the presence of Tat undergo an enhanced and prolonged expansion that turns to a partial dysfunctionality at the peak of the response, and worsens HSV acute infection. Moreover, Tat favors the development of effector memory CD8(+) T cells and a transient loss of B cells, two hallmarks of the chronic immune activation observed in HIV-infected patients. Our data provide evidence that Tat affects CD8(+) T cell responses to co-pathogens and suggest that Tat may contribute to the CD8(+) T cell hyperactivation observed in HIV-infected individuals.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS ONE
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The p16 (p16) tumor-suppressor protein is a biomarker for activated expression of human papillomavirus oncogenes. However, data are insufficient to determine whether p16 overexpression predicts the risk for progression of low-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). This study was aimed at evaluating the risk for progression to CIN2 or worse during a 3-year follow-up of an unselected series of 739 patients with CIN1 biopsy specimens tested for p16 expression. Positivity of p16 was defined as a diffuse overexpression in the basal/parabasal cell layers. Selection biases were ruled out using a control group of 523 patients with CIN1 biopsies not tested for p16 expression. Analysis was based on the ratio of progression rates. In the first year of follow-up, the 216 patients (29%) with p16-positive CIN1 had a higher progression rate (12.3%) than did the 523 patients with p16-negative CIN1 (2.2%) (rate ratio, 5.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.59-11.71). In the second and third years, differences were smaller (rate ratio, 1.32 and 1.14, respectively) and not significant. The patients with p16-positive CIN1 also had a lower risk for regression to normal in the first year of follow-up (rate ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.42-0.71) and nonsignificant changes in the second and third years (rate ratio, 0.81 and 0.84, respectively). The patients with p16-positive CIN1 had an increased risk for progression that was concentrated in the first year of follow-up. Immunostaining of p16 could have a role in short-term surveillance of patients with CIN1. Further research should focus on midterm/long-term outcomes of p16-positive CIN1.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · International Journal of Gynecological Cancer
  • No preview · Conference Paper · Oct 2013
  • No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Journal of Medical Primatology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Use of Env in HIV vaccine development has been disappointing. Here we show that, in the presence of a biologically active Tat subunit vaccine, a trimeric Env protein prevents in monkeys virus spread from the portal of entry to regional lymph nodes. This appears to be due to specific interactions between Tat and Env spikes that form a novel virus entry complex favoring R5 or X4 virus entry and productive infection of dendritic cells (DCs) via an integrin-mediated pathway. These Tat effects do not require Tat-transactivation activity and are blocked by anti-integrin antibodies (Abs). Productive DC infection promoted by Tat is associated with a highly efficient virus transmission to T cells. In the Tat/Env complex the cysteine-rich region of Tat engages the Env V3 loop, whereas the Tat RGD sequence remains free and directs the virus to integrins present on DCs. V2 loop deletion, which unshields the CCR5 binding region of Env, increases Tat/Env complex stability. Of note, binding of Tat to Env abolishes neutralization of Env entry or infection of DCs by anti-HIV sera lacking anti-Tat Abs, which are seldom present in natural infection. This is reversed, and neutralization further enhanced, by HIV sera containing anti-Tat Abs such as those from asymptomatic or Tat-vaccinated patients, or by sera from the Tat/Env vaccinated monkeys. Thus, both anti-Tat and anti-Env Abs are required for efficient HIV neutralization. These data suggest that the Tat/Env interaction increases HIV acquisition and spreading, as a mechanism evolved by the virus to escape anti-Env neutralizing Abs. This may explain the low effectiveness of Env-based vaccines, which are also unlikely to elicit Abs against new Env epitopes exposed by the Tat/Env interaction. As Tat also binds Envs from different clades, new vaccine strategies should exploit the Tat/Env interaction for both preventative and therapeutic interventions.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    Dataset: Figure S8
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Env and Tat interacting residues according to modeling docking analyses. Upper panel: Env interacting residues in the five lowest energy solutions. Residues involved in interactions are indicated by boxes. Different box colors correspond to different solutions. Secondary structure elements are colored as follows: the ΔV1-2 gp120 inner domain of Env substructures are represented in yellow (α1 helix), red (bridging sheet strands), white (three-strand sheet), purple (outer/inner domain transition), and green (α5 helix), while the outer domain is depicted in blue. Lower panel: Tat interacting residues in the five lowest energy solutions. Residues involved in interactions are indicated by boxes in five different colors. Tat regions are colored as follows: purple (N-terminal region), green (cysteine-rich region), yellow (protein core), red (basic region), and grey (C-terminal region). (TIF)
    Full-text · Dataset · Nov 2012

Publication Stats

8k Citations
985.41 Total Impact Points

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Institutions

  • 2006
    • Robert Koch Institut
      Berlín, Berlin, Germany
  • 2005
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • Department of Clinical Medicine
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2002
    • University of Rome Tor Vergata
      Roma, Latium, Italy
    • Istituto Superiore di Sanità
      • Laboratory of Virology
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 1997
    • University of Maryland, Baltimore
      • Institute of Human Virology
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 1995
    • National Cancer Institute (USA)
      • Laboratory of Cell Biology
      베서스다, Maryland, United States