Owen Pornillos


  • BS, University of the Philippines
  • PhD, University of Utah

Primary Appointment

  • Assistant Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics


Research Interest(s)

Structure and assembly of HIV Virus/host interactions; Structural biology of the innate immune system

Research Description

Our long-term goals are to understand how proteins interact with each other and how these interactions underlie biological processes. We are particularly interested in molecular and structural switches that control how proteins form high-order quaternary interactions, or macromolecular assemblies. In one set of projects, we are studying the transformation between the immature and mature forms of orthoretroviruses, with emphasis on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (collaboration with Barbie Ganser-Pornillos and Mark Yeager, Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics) and Rous Sarcoma Virus (collaboration with Volker Vogt, Cornell University). We are also applying the assembly principles that we learn from orthoretroviral capsids on the design of nanoparticles that could be used in imaging of cancer cells in situ and in targeted drug delivery (collaboration with Kim Kelly, Department of Biomolecular Engineering). In a second set of projects, we are studying protein complexes that mediate anti-viral responses as part of the cellular innate immune system.

We use X-ray crystallography and electron cryomicroscopy to determine the structures of individual proteins, protein-protein complexes, and assemblies. To test mechanistic models that arise from these structures, we use biochemical approaches to reconstitute viral and cellular assembly pathways in vitro.

List of Publications in Pubmed

Selected Publications

  • Dawidziak D, Sanchez J, Wagner J, Ganser-Pornillos B, Pornillos O. Structure and catalytic activation of the TRIM23 RING E3 ubiquitin ligase. Proteins. 2017. PMID: 28681414
  • Janczyk P, Skorupka K, Tooley J, Matson D, Kestner C, West T, Pornillos O, Stukenberg P. Mechanism of Ska Recruitment by Ndc80 Complexes to Kinetochores. Developmental cell. 2017;41(4): 438-449.e4. PMID: 28535377
  • Sparrer K, Gableske S, Zurenski M, Parker Z, Full F, Baumgart G, Kato J, Pacheco-Rodriguez G, Liang C, Pornillos O, Moss J, Vaughan M, Gack M. TRIM23 mediates virus-induced autophagy via activation of TBK1. Nature microbiology. 2017. PMID: 28871090
  • Li Y, Chandrasekaran V, Carter S, Woodward C, Christensen D, Dryden K, Pornillos O, Yeager M, Ganser-Pornillos B, Jensen G, Sundquist W. Primate TRIM5 proteins form hexagonal nets on HIV-1 capsids. eLife. 2016;5. PMID: 27253068 | PMCID: PMC4936896
  • Sanchez J, Chiang J, Sparrer K, Alam S, Chi M, Roganowicz M, Sankaran B, Gack M, Pornillos O. Mechanism of TRIM25 Catalytic Activation in the Antiviral RIG-I Pathway. Cell reports. 2016;16(5): 1315-25. PMID: 27425606 | PMCID: PMC5076470
  • Wagner J, Roganowicz M, Skorupka K, Alam S, Christensen D, Doss G, Wan Y, Frank G, Ganser-Pornillos B, Sundquist W, Pornillos O. Mechanism of B-box 2 domain-mediated higher-order assembly of the retroviral restriction factor TRIM5α. eLife. 2016;5. PMID: 27253059 | PMCID: PMC4936894
  • Wagner J, Zadrozny K, Chrustowicz J, Purdy M, Yeager M, Ganser-Pornillos B, Pornillos O. Crystal structure of an HIV assembly and maturation switch. eLife. 2016;5. PMID: 27416583 | PMCID: PMC4946879
  • Gres A, Kirby K, KewalRamani V, Tanner J, Pornillos O, Sarafianos S. STRUCTURAL VIROLOGY. X-ray crystal structures of native HIV-1 capsid protein reveal conformational variability. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2015;349(6243): 99-103. PMID: 26044298 | PMCID: PMC4584149
  • Bhattacharya A, Alam S, Fricke T, Zadrozny K, Sedzicki J, Taylor A, Demeler B, Pornillos O, Ganser-Pornillos B, Diaz-Griffero F, Ivanov D, Yeager M. Structural basis of HIV-1 capsid recognition by PF74 and CPSF6. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014;111(52): 18625-30. PMID: 25518861 | PMCID: PMC4284599
  • Sanchez J, Okreglicka K, Chandrasekaran V, Welker J, Sundquist W, Pornillos O. The tripartite motif coiled-coil is an elongated antiparallel hairpin dimer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014;111(7): 2494-9. PMID: 24550273 | PMCID: PMC3932864
  • Ganser-Pornillos B, Yeager M, Pornillos O. Assembly and architecture of HIV. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2012;726 441-65. PMID: 22297526
  • Pornillos O, Ganser-Pornillos B, Yeager M. Atomic-level modelling of the HIV capsid. Nature. 2011;469(7330): 424-7. PMID: 21248851 | PMCID: PMC3075868
  • Ganser-Pornillos B, Chandrasekaran V, Pornillos O, Sodroski J, Sundquist W, Yeager M. Hexagonal assembly of a restricting TRIM5alpha protein. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2010;108(2): 534-9. PMID: 21187419 | PMCID: PMC3021009
  • Pornillos O, Ganser-Pornillos B, Banumathi S, Hua Y, Yeager M. Disulfide bond stabilization of the hexameric capsomer of human immunodeficiency virus. Journal of molecular biology. 2010;401(5): 985-95. PMID: 20600115 | PMCID: PMC3050670
  • Pornillos O, Ganser-Pornillos B, Kelly B, Hua Y, Whitby F, Stout C, Sundquist W, Hill C, Yeager M. X-ray structures of the hexameric building block of the HIV capsid. Cell. 2009;137(7): 1282-92. PMID: 19523676 | PMCID: PMC2840706