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Faculty Detail    
Campus Address BBRB 466 Zip 2170
Phone 205-996-7101
Other websites Thompson

Faculty Appointment(s)
Appointment Type Department Division Rank
Primary  Microbiology  Microbiology Associate Professor
Center  Center for AIDS Research  Center for AIDS Research Associate Professor
Center  Comprehensive Cancer Center  Comprehensive Cancer Center Associate Professor

Graduate Biomedical Sciences Affiliations
Biochemistry and Structural Biology 
Cellular and Molecular Biology Program 
Genetics and Genomic Sciences 
Integrative Genetics Graduate Program 
Medical Scientist Training Program 

Biographical Sketch 
Sunnie R. Thompson began her research career in the laboratories of Olin Spivey and Ulrich Melcher in the department of Biochemistry at Oklahoma State University where she completed her undergraduate studies (B.S. with honors). She received her Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her graduate advisor and mentor was Marvin Wickens. She moved to California for a postdoctoral fellowship in Peter Sarnow's laboratory at Stanford University where she studied translation initiation of viral internal ribosome entry sites. Dr. Thompson joined the Department of Microbiology at UAB in July 2005. She enjoys running, bicycling, racquetball, tennis and sailing.

Society Memberships
Organization Name Position Held Org Link
American Association for Cancer Research 
RNA Society 

Research/Clinical Interest
Translation initiation and replication of RNA viruses
We are interested in understanding how viruses interact with their hosts. Specifically, how viruses alter the intracellular environment, the molecular mechanisms, and the host factors involved in viral amplification. One of the earliest steps in positive stranded RNA viral amplification is initiation of protein synthesis whereby the virus must subvert the host cell ribosomes to synthesize viral proteins. We are asking a two-pronged question: What can we learn about the viral mechanism of subversion of host ribosomes and what does this tell us about the mechanisms of translation within the host cell? We are using a dicistronic Ura3 growth assay to test various known and characterized yeast translational mutants in order to understand the mechanism of initiation and the effect of specific translation initiation factors on the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) of Cricket Paralysis Virus. We would like to understand why this IRES functions in yeast where so many other IRESes have been found not to work. Viruses are known to steal cellular mechanisms and find ways of using them to their advantage. Therefore, since this IRES functions in yeast, we would predict that there are also cellular mRNAs that utilize a similar mechanism of initiation in yeast. Using microarray chip analysis we are working to identify yeast cellular mRNAs that use a similar mechanism of translation initiation. We are interested in identifying host cell factors that are required for viral replication. The vast body of knowledge that exists for viral replication focuses on the viral proteins that are involved in replication; however, enterovirus replication requires host cell factors. We are using various approaches to identify host cell factors involved in viral amplification including genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and genomics.

Selected Publications 
Publication PUBMEDID
Thompson, S. R. and Sarnow, P. (2003) Enterovirus 71 contains a type I IRES element that functions when eukaryotic initiation factor eIF4G is cleaved. Virology 315, 259-66.  14592777 
Jan, E., Thompson, S. R., Wilson, J. E., Pestova, T. V., Hellen, C. U., and Sarnow, P. (2001). Initiator Met-tRNA-independent translation mediated by an internal ribosome entry site element in cricket paralysis virus-like insect viruses. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 66, 285-92.  12762030 
Thompson, S. R., Gulyas, K. D., and Sarnow, P. (2001) Internal initiation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mediated by an initiator tRNA/eIF2-independent internal ribosome entry site element. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 98, 12972-7. (Commentary: Hinnenbusch, A. G. Unleashing yeast genetics on a factor-independent mechanism of internal translation initiation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98, 12866-8.)  11687653 
Thompson, S. R. and Sarnow, P. (2000). Regulation of host cell translation by viruses and effects on cell function. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 3, 366-70.  10972496 

Host pathogen interactions, Mechanisms of viral translation, IRES, Picornaviruses, Flaviviruses, Ribosome, Translational mechanisms in Cancer