Teaching is a truly rewarding aspect for me and an important part of my professional career. As a former professor at the Medical University of Vienna, I have taught lectures and practical course content covering topics in Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology in face-to-face and online modes. My enthusiasm for teaching is based on the chance to foster students' curiosity, deepen their understanding of complex biological phenomena and concepts, spark a passion for independent learning, and help them see the relevance of the material for their careers. I am excited about the opportunity to continue teaching within the theme of “Genetics, Molecular & Cellular Communication”, bringing in my many years of expertise as a researcher and lecturer to motivate and engage medical students in meaningful theoretical and hands-on learning experiences.
My laboratory has focused on a deeper understanding of the molecular processes underlying the growth and transmission of various picornaviruses. These small, ribonucleic acid (RNA)-containing particles can cause serious morbidities and even death in infected species. Well-known examples include polio-, rhino-, and foot-and-mouth disease viruses. For many representatives, vaccines are not available; therapeutically targeting host factors involved in virus propagation is an emerging alternative for treating picornavirus infections. Using a variety of methods and research tools and in collaboration with other research groups, we have, for example, demonstrated that human N-myristoyl transferase is essential for the replication of many picornaviruses and identified it as a new anti-viral drug target (Crobic Ramljak et al., 2018), described a novel method to study in vitro the release (uncoating) of the RNA genome from the rhinovirus capsid (Real-Hohn et al., 2020) and contributed to the discovery of the neutrophil NET-like trapping of rhinoviruses by the small compound pyridostatin (Real-Hohn et al., 2020).
Heinrich Kowalski obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Vienna, Austria. He then went to the USA for postdoctoral research at the Stanford Medical School. Heinrich subsequently joined the Medical University of Vienna, Department of Pathology followed by his moving to the Department for Medical Biochemistry.
In tight collaboration with the Blaas group at the Max Perutz Labs we have found that the RNA genome of human rhinovirus 2, a prototypic picornavirus, in vivo exits its protective capsid shell presumably through a pore at the two-fold axis with the 3´ end first. This sheds new light on the viral uncoating process and the still rather elusive spatial organization of the RNA genome in the virion.
We recently demonstrated the importance of the fatty myristic acid modification of the capsid protein VP4 in multiple stages of the coxsackievirus B3 infection cycle. Using a highly specific inhibitor of the host enzyme N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) responsible for this modification, we extended the finding to a number of other picornaviruses, uncovering NMT as a potential new drug target.
We have shown that nanoDSF, an advanced differential scanning fluorimetry method, is a very useful tool for studying RNA uncoating of rhinoviruses in vitro, by monitoring the shift and change in intrinsic fluorescence of tryptophan residues in the capsid proteins of virions exposed to a temperature gradient. We further demonstrate its suitability for high-throughput screening of drug-like candidates inhibiting this critical early step in the viral life cycle.
Catching Common Cold Virus with a Net: Pyridostatin Forms Filaments in Tris Buffer That Trap Viruses-A Novel Antiviral Strategy?
Real-Hohn, Antonio; Zhu, Rong; Ganjian, Haleh; Ibrahim, Nahla; Hinterdorfer, Peter; Kowalski, Heinrich; Blaas, Dieter
nanoDSF: In vitro Label-Free Method to Monitor Picornavirus Uncoating and Test Compounds Affecting Particle Stability
Real-Hohn, Antonio; Groznica, Martin; Löffler, Nadine; Blaas, Dieter; Kowalski, Heinrich
Cellular N-myristoyltransferases play a crucial picornavirus genus-specific role in viral assembly, virion maturation, and infectivity.
Corbic Ramljak, Irena; Stanger, Julia; Real-Hohn, Antonio; Dreier, Dominik; Wimmer, Laurin; Redlberger-Fritz, Monika; Fischl, Wolfgang; Klingel, Karin; Mihovilovic, Marko D; Blaas, Dieter; Kowalski, Heinrich
The Rhinovirus Subviral A-Particle Exposes 3'-terminal Sequences of its Genomic RNA.
Harutyunyan, Shushan; Kowalski, Heinrich; Blaas, Dieter