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Alex Evilevitch

Evilevitch alex photo

Associate Professor

alexe@illinois.edu

2814 CVM, MC-002
Office: (217) 300-5435
Fax: (217) 244-7421

Department of Pathobiology
University of Illinois
2814 CVM
2001 South Lincoln Ave
Urbana, IL 61802

Lab Page

My research is in virus biophysics. Specifically, we investigate how physical forces control viral infectious cycles. Since physical forces are often more universal than specific biochemical molecular interactions, this knowledge helps us to understand not just how one type of virus works but how many classes of viruses replicate, providing insight into virus evolution and how to interfere with viral infections in a novel “biophysical” way. Our main tools are solution X-ray and neutron scattering, atomic force microscopy, ultra-sensitive microcalorimetry and fluorescence microscopy.

Research Interests


My laboratory in Virus Biophysics focuses on key physical mechanisms for infectivity and replication of double-stranded DNA viruses. Experimental model systems used in my group are dsDNA bacteriophages and human Herpes viruses (e.g. HSV-1). We are specifically interested in physical mechanisms of DNA packaging and ejection from viral capsids, viral packaging motors, DNA structural transitions inside the capsids associated with infection, viral DNA ejection dynamics, assembly and mechanical stability of viral capsids, effects of molecular crowding on viral DNA ejection and viral replication in vivo, viral DNA condensation. The current research direction is centered around our group’s discovery of high internal DNA pressure inside human Herpesvirus capsids. This DNA pressure reaches tens of atmospheres! The internal genome pressure is generated by strong repulsive interactions between tightly packaged, negatively charged DNA strands as well as DNA bending energy. We found that this mechanical DNA pressure is responsible for initiation of viral infection. Also central to our laboratory is the direct link between virus biophysics and molecular genetics. The ability to selectively modify viral genes of interest allows identification of specific protein domains required for DNA encapsidation and retention during capsid assembly and viral capsid maturation. We have the unique capability to perform both single molecule and bulk measurements on viruses under controlled solution conditions. The main techniques are atomic force microscopy, ultra-sensitive microcalorimetry, fluorescence microscopy, light scattering, solution X-ray and neutron scattering.

Education

M.S., 1997, Department of Physical Chemistry, Lund University, Sweden
Ph.D., 2001, Department of Physical Chemistry, Lund University, Sweden
Postdoc., 2002-2003, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, CA, USA

Awards

Sven och Ebba-Christina Hagberg’s Prize in Biochemistry and Medicine from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Karolinska University, Stockholm, Sweden, 2008
Akzo Nobel Nordic Science Prize, 2005
Swedish Research Council Career Award, 2004
The UCLA Chancellor’s Award for Postdoctoral Research with Exceptional Accomplishments in research, 2004
The 2003 Hebert Newby McCoy Award, 2003
Award for Postdoctoral Research from STINT (The Swedish Foundation of International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education, 2002-04