The Rhabdoviridae virus family includes numerous animal pathogens. Within rhabdoviruses infecting mammals, Rabies virus (RV) and vector transmitted viruses such as Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) are the best investigated members and are considered as model viruses for rhabdovirus pathogens. Compared to other members of the Mononegavirales order, rhabdoviruses are regarded as minimal viruses because of their rather simple genome organisation, making rhabdoviruses a suitable model system to investigate viral replication mechanisms.
In spite of the broad host range of rhabdoviruses, host species specific differences regarding the replication potential of rhabdoviruses are observed. Beside basic, cell independent mechanisms of the rhabdovirus replication a species specific and/or cell type dependent replication of the pathogens is a decisive factor for the zoonotic potential of these viruses. Knowledge about molecular principles of host cell dependent and independent virus replication is therefore of significant interest for the assessment of risk potentials of known and emerging rhabdoviruses as well as for the development or advancement of vaccines for prevention.
A key technology in the lab is the use of genetically modified recombinant rhabdoviruses that allow the functional characterization of virus proteins and regulatory nucleotide sequences. Besides the consistent advancement of already existing reverse genetics systems, new systems are developed for rhabdoviruses that are of special interest for the investigation of molecular replication mechanisms of rhabdoviruses or that have to be characterized on the molecular level and functionally investigated because of current or conceivable emergence.
A further focus in the lab is the use of modern imaging techniques for the visualization of viral replication steps. For this purpose, a technology platform has been established that allows real time tracking of fluorescence-labelled proteins and viruses in living cells (live cell/virus imaging).