Deborah H. Spector, Ph. D.
Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Dr. Spector’s lab has spent 34 years studying human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), which is the major viral cause of birth defects, a serious problem in immunocompromised individuals, and a risk factor in atherosclerosis. Her research centers on viral pathogenesis and the molecular mechanisms used by HCMV to control its gene expression and subvert the cell’s signaling and regulatory pathways. A key discovery was that HCMV modulates the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway by inactivating the anaphase promoting complex, the major E3 ubiquitin ligase in cell cycle regulation. Other areas of research include the role of HCMV in atherosclerosis and the effects of HCMV infection on the neural lineage specification and maturation of stem and progenitor cells.
Dr. Spector’s group has also developed a novel strategy for vaccines against viruses that persist and establish latency, and has shown their protective efficacy in animal models of cytomegalovirus infection and genital HSV-2 infection. The underlying principle is that herpesviruses persist because natural immunity cannot eliminate the infected cells, and thus vaccination must be more effective in establishing protection than natural infection.
Education: B.A. in Biology (1971) Smith College; Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology (1975) MIT; Postdoctoral Research (1975-78) UCSF.
Awards and Honors: Phi Beta Kappa; Sigma Xi; NSF Grad Fellowship (1971-74); Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Postdoc. Fellowship (1975-78); Kaiser Permanente Teaching Award (1983, 1985); Visiting Professor, Hubei Medical College, Wuhan, China (10/86); Tribute to Women In Industry Award (1995); Women Who Mean Business Award (2011).
Leadership Experience: Founding Chair, Molecular Biology Section in Division of Biological Sciences 2000-03; Chair, American Society for Microbiology, DNA Viruses Section, 2004-05; UCSD Clinical and Translational Res. Institute. – Director Translational Res. Alliance Program 2008 - Present.
Sanders et al. (2008). Development of cell lines that provide tightly controlled temporal translation of the human cytomegalovirus IE2 proteins for complementation and functional analyses of growth-impaired and non-viable IE2 mutant viruses. J Virol. 82:7059-7077.
Tran et al. (2010). Inactivation and disassembly of the anaphase-promoting complex during human cytomegalovirus infection is associated with the degradation of the APC5 and APC4 subunits and does not require UL97-mediated phosphorylation of Cdh1. J. Virol. 84:10832-10843.
Morello et al. (2011) Immunization with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) Genes Plus Inactivated HSV-2 Is Highly Protective Against Acute and Recurrent HSV-2 Disease. J. Virol. 85:3461-3472 Potential