Melanie Ott’s lab focuses mainly on two viruses, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) and the hepatitis C virus. HIV infects immune cells known as CD4+ T cells, wreaking havoc on the body’s immune system. However, the virus can also remain dormant in CD4+ T cells and re-emerge later to initiate a new round of infection. The Hepatitis C virus targets liver cells, where it uses fat droplets to propagate itself while compromising the cells’ fat and energy metabolism. Ott’s team strives to understand the molecular interactions between these viruses and their target cells to yield targets for new therapeutic drugs. The lab also studies the Zika virus and its interaction with host RNA control pathways.

Disease Areas

HIV/AIDS
Hepatitis C
Autoimmunity
Zika Virus

Areas of Expertise

Virology
Immunology
Chromatin Biology
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Lab Focus

Understanding how host epigenetic mechanisms regulate HIV latency.
Understanding flaviviral interactions with lipid droplets and the nonsense-mediated RNA decay pathway.
Understanding how the protein SIRT1 regulates immune aging during HIV infection.

Research Impact

The team demonstrated the importance of a protein modification called acetylation in the regulation of HIV expression and latency. This work paves the way for the use of acetylation-targeting agents to reverse latency, which is considered the main obstacle to HIV eradication.

Ott’s lab established SIRT1 as a central regulator of the balance between regulatory T cells, which suppress the immune response, and Th17 cells, which promote inflammation. This balance is compromised in both chronic HIV infection and autoimmune disease, and characterizing the SIRT1 pathway will provide new therapeutic approaches to alleviate both conditions.

Ott and her group also showed the Hepatitis C virus’s dependence on lipid droplets, which has repercussions beyond the treatment of this virus, given that other deadly viruses also use lipid droplets to multiply.

 

Professional Titles

Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology

Gladstone Officer of Mentoring

Professor, Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Bio

A native of Germany, Melanie Ott is a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, as well as a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco (UCSF).

Prior to joining Gladstone in 2002, Ott started her own research group at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany. She earned an MD from the University of Frankfurt/Main in Germany, and a PhD in molecular medicine from the Picower Graduate School in Manhasset, New York. Ott is passionate about using viruses to find fundamental new biology in host cells.

Ott has received several honors, including the Young Researcher Award at the European Conference on Experimental AIDS Research and the Hellman Award. She is a member of the Association of American Physicians and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She is also a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service from UCSF for her work as the founder and co-chair of the student outreach committee at Gladstone. Ott also helped establish the PUMAS (Promoting Underrepresented Minorities Advancing in the Sciences) internship program at Gladstone, which seeks to increase diversity in STEM.

How Did You Get Your Start in Science?

“I worked as a neurologist when the first genome was sequenced and PCR was discovered. This triggered my passion for the molecular basis of diseases.”

Melanie Ott, MD, PhD

Honors and Awards

2019 NIH Merit Award, National Institutes of Health

2018 UCSF AIDS Research Institute Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring

2018 Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (Elected)

2017 DiNA Award Biotechnology Educator of the Year, California Life Sciences Association (CLSA)

2014 Avant-Garde Award, National Institutes of Health

2013 Member of Association of American Physicians (Elected)

2008 Thomas N. Burbridge Award, UC San Francisco

2008 Sandler Opportunity Award, UC San Francisco

2008 UCSF Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, UC San Francisco

2006 Hellman Family Award, UC San Francisco

2000 Young Researcher Award, European Conference on Experimental AIDS Research, Madrid, Spain

1999 Young Research Award, European Conference on Experimental AID Research, Tampere, Finland

1991 Honors, Magna Cum Laude, University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany

1984 Scholarship, German National Merit Foundation

Publications

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Contact

Melanie Ott

415.734.4807

Lauren Weiser
Administrative Assistant III

415.734.4809


Lab Members

Gili Aviv, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Daniela Boehm, PhD
Staff Research Scientist I
Irene Chen
Graduate Student
Jesse Chen
Research Associate I
Parinaz Fozouni
Graduate Student
Carley Gray
Research Associate I
Jennifer Hayashi, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Mir Khalid, MS
Graduate Student
Kristoffer Leon
Graduate Student
Danielle Lyons, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Sarah McMahon
Graduate Student
Zakithi Mkhize
Graduate Student
Ursula Schulze-Gahmen, PhD
Staff Research Scientist III
Camille Simoneau
Graduate Student
Sakshi Tomar, PhD
Visiting Postdoc
Chia-Lin Tsou, MS
Senior Research Associate
Albert Vallejo Gracia, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Yuan Zhou, MS
Bioinformatician I