Judith M. White


  • PhD, Harvard University

Primary Appointment

  • Professor, Cell Biology


Research Interest(s)

Virus Entry into Cells: Mechanisms and Development of Anti-Viral Therapeutics

Research Description

The White Laboratory studies virus entry into host cells. Our past work focused on mechanisms by which the fusion proteins of enveloped viruses (e.g. the influenza hemagglutinin and retroviral Env proteins) mediate the critical process of virus-cell fusion, the means by which viral genetic material is introduced into cells to initiate infection. Our work has led to a general model for how all viral fusion proteins function. We also provided a critical proof of concept that targeting viral fusion proteins can be an effective anti-viral strategy. We are currently studying how filoviruses, typified by the highly pathogenic ebolavirus, enter and fuse with host cells. We are intrigued to study ebolavirus entry (which we do under BSL-2 conditions with pseudovirions and viral-like particles) for several reasons: Ebolavirus infects an unusually wide variety of host cells, it is large and unusually shaped, and it is not known how the viral glycoprotein is activated for fusion. In addition to basic studies that address these unknown features, we have been engaged in successful efforts to identify FDA-approved drugs that block filovirus entry into, and infection of, host cells.

Selected Publications

  • Johansen L, DeWald L, Shoemaker C, Hoffstrom B, Lear-Rooney C, Stossel A, Nelson E, Delos S, Simmons J, Grenier J, Pierce L, Pajouhesh H, Lehár J, Hensley L, Glass P, White J, Olinger G. A screen of approved drugs and molecular probes identifies therapeutics with anti-Ebola virus activity. Science translational medicine. 2015;7(290): 290ra89. PMID: 26041706
  • Mingo R, Simmons J, Shoemaker C, Nelson E, Schornberg K, D'Souza R, Casanova J, White J. Ebola virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus display late cell entry kinetics: evidence that transport to NPC1+ endolysosomes is a rate-defining step. Journal of virology. 2015;89(5): 2931-43. PMID: 25552710 | PMCID: PMC4325712
  • Johansen L, Brannan J, Delos S, Shoemaker C, Stossel A, Lear C, Hoffstrom B, Dewald L, Schornberg K, Scully C, Lehár J, Hensley L, White J, Olinger G. FDA-approved selective estrogen receptor modulators inhibit Ebola virus infection. Science translational medicine. 2013;5(190): 190ra79. PMID: 23785035 | PMCID: PMC3955358
  • White J, Schornberg K. A new player in the puzzle of filovirus entry. Nature reviews. Microbiology. 2012;10(5): 317-22. PMID: 22491356 | PMCID: PMC3540776
  • Avinoam O, Fridman K, Valansi C, Abutbul I, Zeev-Ben-Mordehai T, Maurer U, Sapir A, Danino D, Grünewald K, White J, Podbilewicz B. Conserved eukaryotic fusogens can fuse viral envelopes to cells. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2011;332(6029): 589-92. PMID: 21436398 | PMCID: PMC3084904
  • Brecher M, Schornberg K, Delos S, Fusco M, Saphire E, White J. Cathepsin cleavage potentiates the Ebola virus glycoprotein to undergo a subsequent fusion-relevant conformational change. Journal of virology. 2011;86(1): 364-72. PMID: 22031933 | PMCID: PMC3255896
  • Gregory S, Harada E, Liang B, Delos S, White J, Tamm L. Structure and function of the complete internal fusion loop from Ebolavirus glycoprotein 2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011;108(27): 11211-6. PMID: 21690393 | PMCID: PMC3131375