Bharath Sreekumar, PhD
I am a molecular biologist whose primary interest is in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying HIV latency. During my graduate career at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, under the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Oestreich, I was focused in understanding the mechanisms by which cytokines within the micro-environment played a role in inducing helper T-cell polarization, with an emphasis on transcription factors. Here we observed that, in the absence of IL-2, helper T-cells upregulated a member of the Ikaros Zinc Finger (IkZF) family of transcription factors; called Aiolos. We further observed that Aiolos formed a novel interaction with STAT3 to induce the TFH (T-follicular helper cell) gene program. However, in the presence of IL-2, another IkZF member, Eos, was pre-dominant within T-cells and this in turn formed a novel regulatory complex with STAT5 to promote the TH1 (Type 1 helper T-cell) gene program. During this time, I gained expertise in several molecular biology techniques that was important in characterizing novel protein-protein and protein-gene interactions. As a graduate student, I received several academic awards and had the privilege and opportunity to present my work at national level conferences.