Purdue University Graduate School

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posted on 2023-06-09, 19:19 authored by Xiao LiuXiao Liu


Ebola virus (EBOV) infection remains to be a challenge to human health by its high mortality rate. Though it has been discovered for almost 50 years, there are only two antibody-based therapies approved today, and the mortality rate is still greater than 30% with the treatment. Authentic EBOV studies are strictly limited to biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) labs, which slows the development of treatment. While more simple and safer systems have been developed to understand different stages of EBOV infection, such as the matrix protein (VP40) virus-like particle (VLP) and minigenome systems, we still lack a systematical view of EBOV infection. On the other hand, mathematical modeling has been used to assist biological and medical studies for many years, as it has the advantage of integrating data and providing quantitative insight to a biosystem. In our study, we took advantage of mathematical modeling and build the primary ordinary differential equation-based (ODE-based) model of EBOV at subcellular level step by step. We built the budding pathway of EBOV VP40 first, calibrated and validated our model with experimental data. We proposed that phosphatidylserine (PS) can directly influence the stability of VP40 filaments and the budding process of VLPs. Also, the oligomerization of VP40 filaments may follow the nucleation-elongation process. Next, we conducted in-silico simulation to evaluate the treatment efficiency of fendiline, a drug lowering cell membrane PS level, in treating EBOV. We found that while in general, fendiline can decrease VLP production, there can be fendiline-induced VLP production increases at certain time points due to slow filament growth or fast VLP budding rates. Also, we concluded that fendiline is relatively more effective when applied in the budding stage of EBOV life cycle. Moreover, fendiline efficacy may increase when applied with a VLP budding step targeted treatment. Finally, we integrated nucleoprotein (NP) into our model. We reproduced the two-stage interaction between NP and VP40 and predict that NP increases VLP production through influencing filament oligomerization and VLP budding steps. Also, the dual-effect of NP on VLP production may exist, as a too high NP/VP40 production ratio can decrease VLP production. From the aspect of protein expression time, we found that a bit earlier NP production than VP40 production is beneficial for both inclusion body-containing (IB-containing) VLP production and prevention in energy waste on production of VLPs without IBs. Overall, we have built a solid foundation towards a mathematical EBOV model and demonstrated the value of models in assisting experimental EBOV studies.


Andrews Fellowship

CAREER: Complexity From Simplicity: Multi-scale Computational Deciphering of the Viral Life Cycle

Directorate for Biological Sciences

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Systems Fellowship

NIH UM1TR004402


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biomedical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Elsje Pienaar

Additional Committee Member 2

Nan Kong

Additional Committee Member 3

Robert V. Stahelin

Additional Committee Member 4

Leopold N. Green