- Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program | Owen Pornillos

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.

Selected Publications

  • Ganser-Pornillos B. K., Chandrasekaran V., Pornillos O., Sodroski J. G., Sundquist W. I., Yeager M.. Hexagonal assembly of a restricting TRIM5alpha protein Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 108(2): 534-9. PMCID: PMC3021009
  • Pornillos O., Ganser-Pornillos B. K., Banumathi S., Hua Y., Yeager M.. Disulfide bond stabilization of the hexameric capsomer of human immunodeficiency virus J Mol Biol. 401(5): 985-995. PMCID: PMC3050670
  • Pornillos O., Ganser-Pornillos B. K., Kelly B. N., Hua Y., Whitby F. G., Stout C. D., Sundquist W. I., Hill C. P., Yeager M.. X-ray structures of the hexameric building block of the HIV capsid Cell. 137(7): 1282-92. PMCID: PMC2840706
  • Pornillos O., Ganser-Pornillos B. K., Yeager M.. Atomic-level modelling of the HIV capsid Nature. 469(7330): 424-7. PMCID: PMC3075868
  • Sanchez J. G., Okreglicka K., Chandrasekaran V., Welker J. M., Sundquist W. I., Pornillos O.. The tripartite motif coiled-coil is an elongated antiparallel hairpin dimer. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111(7): 2494-9. PMCID: PMC3932864