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
Email: roperr@ecu.edu


My research focuses on viral pathogens and mechanisms of virulence. Two virus groups are studied in my laboratory, Poxviruses (relatives of smallpox), and Coronaviruses, which include the human Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus. Both virus groups are of concern in human and veterinary health. Smallpox is a Category A biological disease agent which has been identified by the US Government as a primary bioterrorism/biowarfare threat. In addition, other poxviral diseases are evolving and emerging anew. The emergence of SARS Coronavirus may represent the most significant viral evolution event in infectious disease since HIV. Previously coronaviruses had received little research attention and caused no significant human disease. When we sequenced and analyzed the SARS genome (Science 2003) we discovered this virus belongs to a new, previously unrecognized, group of coronaviruses. While the initial outbreak was controlled, the repeated transfer of SARS from animals to humans in Asia over several years suggests that it may only be a matter of time before another important mutation occurs releasing a new virulent and transmissible 'SARS 2'.

My lab focuses on understanding mechanisms of pathogenesis with the goal of developing safe and effective vaccines and drugs against these viral threats. To aid in this research, my lab has been involved in the development of bioinformatics software and databases for the analysis of viral genomes. Bioinformatics is the use of computers to analyze biological information and is essential to genome analysis of poxviruses and coronaviruses, which have some of the largest genomes of all viruses. We use bioinformatic analysis to mine the genomes of these pathogens for information and to form hypotheses about viral virulence mechanisms. Why are some viruses so virulent, while closely related viruses are not? Bioinformatic analysis indicates that the large linear viral genomes of these pathogens encode a number of unique gene sequences compared to less virulent relatives. In addition, putative genes of unknown function have been identified, some of which have interesting motifs or homologies that are suggestive of a particular function. These hypotheses can then be tested directly to elucidate the role of these proteins in the ability of the virus to cause disease. My lab works to determine the expression and timing of various interesting proteins, the function of the protein in the virus life cycle and in controlling host anti-viral responses, in particular immune responses. Many of these target proteins are likely to be useful for therapeutic drug and vaccine design.

We have developed 2 candidate SARS vaccines and tested them in 2 animal models and have filed a patent application on a newly discovered poxvirus protein that blocks immune responses. Removal of this gene increases both safety and immunogenicity of poxvirus vaccine strains.

We are now beginning to explore the use of this improved poxvirus platform vaccine in treatment of cancer in an established pancreatic cancer model.

Selected Publications

Interview with Dr. Roper on her Research (wmv)

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