Rachel L. Roper

Rachel L. Roper

Associate Professor

B.S., Texas A&M University
M.S., University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry
Ph.D., University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Phone: 252-744-2708
Fax: 252-744-3104


My research laboratory focuses on viral pathogens, mechanisms of virulence (how viruses cause disease) and how viruses can be designed to create vaccines against numerous diseases, including cancer. Currently we are focusing research on poxviruses including vaccinia virus, mousepox, and raccoonpox virus.The vaccinia virus poxvirus vaccine is administered to all U.S. military personnel for protection against smallpox and monkeypox viruses, Category A biological disease agents which have been identified by the US Government as primary bioterrorism/biowarfare threats. Recombinant vaccinia is also widely used as the wildlife rabies vaccine in the US. However, use of these vaccines is limited by the virulence of these poxvirus vectors in humans. To study how viruses cause disease and to create safer vaccines, we have identified previously uncharacterized virulence genes (such as A35) that act by inhibiting the mammalian immune system, thus allowing the viruses to replicate and spread prior to control by the immune response. We are using this information to design safer and more effective vaccines for pathogens and for cancer treatment.

We have also explored other potential poxvirus vaccine vectors including raccoonpox virus. We sequenced and analyzed the raccooonpox virus genome, the first North American poxvirus sequenced, and showed that it forms a new evolutionary branch distinct from Orthopoxviruses. Further, we showed that it is extremely attenuated even in immunocompromised and pregnant mammals, suggesting it will be a very safe vaccine vector (it is currently approved as a rabies vaccine). One aspect of the lab continues to be analysis of viral genomes, including poxvirus, torovirus, and coronavirus (e.g. SARS). We have used bioinformatics analysis to uncover conserved genes with unusual and interesting properties, such as immunoregulatory genes. We are currently exploring the biochemical mechanisms of action of these immunoregulatory genes and proteins. If we can discover how these proteins act, it may be possible to mimic them in order to control deleterious immune responses in human and animal organ transplantation or autoimmunity.

Selected Publications

Interview with Dr. Roper on her Research (wmv)

Clare Fleischauer, ChrisUpton, Joseph Victoria, Gwendolyn JB Jones and R. L. Roper.2015. Genome Sequence and Comparative Virulence of Raccoonpox Virus: TheFirst North American Poxvirus Sequence.  J Gen Virol, 96:2806-2821. 

Gwendolyn JB Jones, Corey Boles, and Rachel L. Roper. Raccoonpoxvirus Safety in Immunocompromised and Pregnant Mouse Models. Vaccine, 2014 Jun 30;32(31):3977-81. doi: 10.1016/j. PMID: 24837508

Roper, R. L. 2012. "Antigen Presentation Assays to Investigate Uncharacterized Immunoregulatory Genes" in Methods in Molecular Biology, Springer, S. Isaacs Ed. 890:259-71. PMID: 22688772

R. L. Roper. Methods and compositions for poxvirus A35R protein. U.S. patent issued 06/19/2012 Patent No 8202521.

Plummer; H Feldmann; S Jones; Y Li; N Bastien; R Brunham; A Brooks-Wilson; R Holt; C Upton; R Roper; C Astell; S Jones; "SARS virus nucleotide and amino acid sequences and uses thereof" US Patent 7897744, Issued March 1, 2011.

K. E. Rehm and R. L. Roper. 2011. Deletion of the A35 gene from Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara Increases Immunogenicity and Isotype Switching. Vaccine, 29: 3276–3283. PMID: 21352940

K. E. Rehm, R. F. Connor, G. J. B. Jones, K. Yimbu, and R. L. Roper. 2010. Vaccinia Virus A35R Inhibits MHC Class II Antigen Presentation. Virol.397:176-186. PMID: 19954808

Roper, R.L. and K.E. Rehm. SARS Vaccines: Where are we? Expert Reviews of Vaccines. 2009 8(7):887-898 July. PMID: 19538115

K. E. Rehm, G. J. B. Jones, A. A. Tripp, M. W. Metcalf, and R. L. Roper. 2010. The Poxvirus A35 Protein is an Immunoregulator, J. Virol, 84(1):418-425. PMID: 19828608

K. E. Rehm, R. F. Connor, G. J. B. Jones, K. Yimbu, M. D. Mannie, R. L. Roper. Vaccinia virus decreases MHC class II antigen presentation, T cell priming, and peptide association with MHC class II. 2009. Immunol., 128: 381–392. PMID: 20067538

R.H. See, M. Petric, D.J. Lawrence, C.P.Y. Mok, T. Rowe, L.A. Zitzow, K.P. Karunakaran, T.G. Voss, J. Gauldie, R.C. Brunham, B.B. Finlay, and R.L. Roper. 2008. SARS Vaccine Efficacy in Ferrets: Whole Killed Virus And Adenovirus-Vectored Vaccines. J. Gen. Virol. Sept, 89:2136-2146

J. D. Osborne, M. Da Silva, A. M. Frace, S. A. Sammons, M. Olsen-Ramussen, C. Upton, R. M. L. Buller, N. Chen, Z. Feng, R. L. Roper, J. Liu, K. V Pougatcheva, W. Chen, R. Wohlhueter, J. J. Esposito. 2007. Genomic differences of Vaccinia virus clones from Dryvax® smallpox vaccine: the Dryvax-like Acam2000 and the mouse neurovirulent clone-3. Vaccine. PMID: 18037545

R.F. Connor and R L. Roper. 2007. Unique SARS Virulence Protein nsp1; Bioinformatics and Biochemistry. Trends in Microbiology. 15(2):51-53. PMID: 17207625

Roper, R. L. 2006. Characterization of the Vaccinia Virus A35R Protein and its Role in Virulence. J. Virol. Jan, 80: 306-313. PMID: 16352555

Raymond H. See, Alexander N. Zakhartchouk, Martin Petric, David J. Lawrence, Catherine P.Y. Mok, Robert J. Hogan, Thomas Rowe, Lois A. Zitzow, Karuna P. Karunakaran, Mary M. Hitt, Frank L. Graham, Ludvik Prevec, James B. Mahony, Aubrey J. Tingle, David W. Scheifele, Danuta M. Skowronski, David M. Patrick, Lorne A. Babiuk, Jack Gauldie, Thomas G. Voss, Rachel L. Roper, Robert C. Brunham, and B. Brett Finlay. 2006. Comparative Evaluation of Two SARS Vaccine Candidates in Mice Challenged with SARS-Coronavirus J. Gen Virol. March 87:641-50. PMID: 16476986

R. Draker, R. L. Roper, M. Petric and R. Tellier. 2006. The complete sequence of the bovine torovirus genome. Virus Research, Jan;115(1):56-68.PMID: 16137782

R. H. See, R. L. Roper, R. C. Brunham and B.B. Finlay. 2005. Rapid Response Research – SARS Coronavirus Vaccines and Application of Processes to Other Emerging Infectious Diseases. Current Immunology Reviews. 1:185-200, June.

N. Chen, G. Li, M. K. Liszewski, J. Atkinson, P. Jarhling, Z. Feng, J. Schriewer, C. Buck, C. Wang, E. J. Lefkowitz, J. J. Esposito, T. Harms, I. K. Damon, R. L. Roper, C. Upton, and R. M. L. Buller. 2005. Virulence differences between monkeypox virus isolates from West Africa and the Congo basin. Virology. 340;46-63, July. PMID: 16023693

Li, G., N. Chen, R. L. Roper, Z. Feng, A. Hunter, M. Danila, C. Upton and R. M. L. Buller. 2005. Complete Coding Sequences of the Rabbitpox Virus Genome. J. Gen. Vir; 86:2969-77.) PMID: 16227218

D. M. Skowronski, C. Astell, R. C. Brunham, D. E. Low, M. Petric, R. L. Roper, P. J. Talbot, T. Tam, L. Babiuk. 2005. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS): A Year in Review. Annual Review of Medicine, 56:357-381. PMID: 15660517

R. Brodie, R.L. Roper, A.J. Smith, V. Tcherepanov,and C. Upton. 2004. Base-By-Base: Single nucleotide-level analysis of whole viral genome alignments. BMC Bioinformatics. 5:96. PMID: 15253776

Roper, R. L. ³Rapid Preparation of Vaccinia Virus DNA Template for Analysis and Cloning by PCR² in Methods in Molecular Biology, S. Isaacs Ed. 2004. 269:113-8. PMID: 15114011

M. A. Marra, S. J. M. Jones, C. R. Astell, R. A.Holt , A. Brooks-Wilson, Y. S. N. Butterfield , J. Khattra, J. K. Asano, S. A. Barber, S. Y. Chan, A. Cloutier, S. M. Coughlin, D. Freeman, N. Girn, O. L.Griffith, S. R. Leach, M. Mayo, H. McDonald, S. B.Montgomery, P. K. Pandoh, A. S. Petrescu, A. G. Robertson, J. E. Schein, A. Siddiqui, D. E. Smailus, J. M. Stott, G. S. Yang, F. Plummer, A. Andonov, H. Artsob,N. Bastien, K. Bernard, T. F. Booth, D. Bowness, M. Drebot, L. Fernando, R. Flick, M. Garbutt, M.Gray, A. Grolla, S. Jones, H. Feldmann, A. Meyers, A. Kabani, Y. Li, S. Normand, U. Stroher, G. A. Tipples, S. Tyler, R. Vogrig, D. Ward, B. Watson, R. C.Brunham, M. Krajden, M. Petric, D. M. Skowronski, C.Upton, R. L. Roper. 2003. The Genome Sequence of the SARS-Associated Coronavirus. Science. 300(5624):1399-404. PMID: 12730501

Upton C, Slack S, Hunter AL, Ehlers A, Roper R.L. Poxvirus Orthologous Clusters: Toward Defining the Minimum Essential Poxvirus Genome. Journal of Virology. 2003 Jul; 77(13):7590-600. PMID: 12805459

Brodie, R, R. L. Roper, and C. Upton. 2004 JDotter: A Java Interface to Multiple DotPlots Generated by Dotter. Bioinformatics. 20:279-281. PMID: 14734323


Name Title Location Phone
Jones, Gwendolyn J.B. Research Specialist Brody 5N-128 252-744-2731
Weeks, Anastasia Doctoral Candidate Brody 5N-128 252-744-2731
Scurlock, Allen Research Tech, Temp Brody 5N-128 252-744-2731

Roper Lab 2015

Roper Lab 2015