|Eric Hunter, Ph.D.
Area of Research: HIV/AIDS
Eric Hunter (b. 1948), Professor, completed his undergraduate
studies in bacteriology at Birmingham University, England (B.Sc.
with honors, 1969). His graduate work in tumor immunology was
carried out at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund & Brunel
University, London, England (Ph.D., 1972). During postdoctoral
studies at the University of Southern California, he applied
molecular genetics approaches to examine retrovirus replication,
and he expanded on this approach when he joined the University
of Alabama (Birmingham) in 1976. While at the UAB, Dr. Hunter
was the founding Director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research
(CFAR), leading its growth into one of the premiere AIDS research
institutions in the United States. His laboratory has been recognized
internationally for its work in defining the molecular events
involved in retroviral assembly and for elucidating the structure/function
relationships for retroviral gene products at a molecular level.
Recently, his laboratory has investigated the molecular mechanisms
underlying HIV transmission among stable heterosexual couples
living in Rwanda and Zambia with an aim toward developing novel
vaccine approaches that might prevent this transmission event.
Since joining the Emory faculty in 2004, Dr. Hunter has continued
examining the molecular basis for HIV entry and the role that
HIV glycoproteins play in the transmission of this pathogen.
Dr. Hunter's research has primarily centered on elucidating
the virus-cell interactions involved in the assembly and the
entry of retroviruses. Understanding how independently targeted
capsid and glycoprotein molecules are transported to the assembly
site(s), what cellular pathways are utilized, and what roles
cell- and virus-encoded gene products play in this process, is
a major focus of his research. Because the major viral components
traverse distinct pathways, Dr. Hunter's laboratory has characterized
the factors that influence intracellular transport and assembly
of both viral capsids and viral glycoproteins. He has also examined
the signals and mechanisms that operate to include the viral
glycoproteins into a budding virion and that mediate fusion.
More recently, this information on glycoprotein structure and
function has been applied to studies of the virologic correlates
of HIV transmission within an African setting. Specifically,
studies are underway to distinguish structural and functional
differences between the glycosylated HIV envelope proteins that
permit transmission into a new host versus the majority of related
HIV envelope variants in the donor that fail to lead to a transmission
event. Additional studies in collaboration with investigators
at the UAB and in Perth, Australia, have recently been initiated
to examine how a newly transmitted virus adapts to its new host-defined
immune environment so as to evade detection and destruction.
The knowledge gained from characterizing unique features of the
transmitted envelope proteins and the process of immune escape,
will be critical for the development of an effective HIV vaccine.