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David A. Leib, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Adjunct Professor of Biology

Microbiology and Immunology

David Leib received his BSc from The University of Birmingham, UK in 1983 in Biological Sciences. He then received his PhD from The University of Liverpool, UK in 1986 from the Department of Medical Microbiology. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University with Dr Priscilla Schaffer from 1987-1990. He was then was appointed to the faculty of Washington University in St Louis where he served as Professor until 2009, before moving to Dartmouth.

Immunology Program
Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Programs
Molecular Pathogenesis Program

Visit the Leib Lab Website at:

Contact Information:

Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
One Medical Center Drive
Borwell Building 630E
Lebanon NH 03756

Office: 603-650-8616
Fax: 603-650-6223
Email: david.a.leib@dartmouth.edu

Professional Interests:

Since its establishment in 1990 my laboratory has studied the pathogenesis and biology of herpes simplex virus (HSV) with an emphasis on studying the interface of the virus and the host. The generation and use of recombinant viruses in a variety of models of infection followed by analysis with functional genomics and cytokine arrays has allowed us to determine the roles of viral and host factors in the outcome of infection. We have developed a number of reagents, techniques, and approaches. These include BACs to rapidly generate recombinant viruses, non-invasive bioluminescence technology to monitor spread and tropism of HSV in real time, and recombinant viruses that are effective as therapeutic vaccines for prevention of recurrent HSV infections (US Patent #5698431). We have also discovered roles for a number of viral genes in the evasion of innate and adaptive immunity, and of autophagy responses, and elucidated roles for host resistance pathways in the control of acute infection.

Herpes simplex virus is a common ocular pathogen causing a variety of diseases ranging from self-limiting dendritic epithelial keratitis, conjunctivitis, and blepharitis to necrotizing stromal keratitis. HSV exhibits two different modes of gene expression during its life cycle. During the replicative phase of infection all of its genes are expressed. During latency, however, viral gene expression is almost completely repressed. Our approach is to manipulate cloned viral genes and then introduce engineered mutations into the viral genome to generate recombinant viruses. We then use these recombinant viruses in vitro and in vivo to allow the study of viral pathogenesis at the molecular level.

HSV rapidly shuts off protein synthesis in infected cells in part through the virion host shutoff protein or vhs. Vhs is a ribonuclease, inducing rapid destabilization of host mRNAs. We have demonstrated that vhs activity determines the outcome of infection in vivo by virtue of its ability to degrade viral dsRNA, to alter innate immune function, and to promote viral replication in vivo. Our ongoing work is determining how alterations in viral RNA turnover modulated by vhs affect double-stranded RNA sensing, and thereby the induction of the innate immune response. We are using functional genomic analysis in vivo and in vitro to determine the contribution of vhs to the specific alteration of host gene expression and elucidating the structural determinants that govern the immunomodulatory activity of vhs. Finally, using our real-time bioluminescent approaches, we are showing that the tropism of HSV is strongly shaped by innate immunity, with certain pathways being necessary for protection of the CNS, and others for prevention of generalized hematogenous spread.

Autophagy is a constitutive cellular process in which cytoplasmic components are sequestered and degraded by the lysosome to generate metabolic precursors, to remove damaged organelles and altered intracellular components. If the autophagic vacuole also engulfs and destroys invading pathogens, the process is known as xenophagy. Three important aspects of the pathogenesis of HSV are being studied. First, we are determining the role of xenophagy in the pathogenesis of HSV-1. Second, we are exploring mechanisms by which viral genes subvert the host innate xenophagy and interferon (IFN)-mediated antiviral responses. Third, we are determining the impact of two HSV proteins on the regulation of xenophagy and antigen presentation. Our work is demonstrating that xenophagy is a critical process for the protection of the host from infection through both innate and adaptive immune responses, and that subversion of xenophagy is a pivotal determinant of HSV pathogenesis.

Grant Information:

Principal Investigator, NEI RO1 09083 "Viral and host factors in herpetic reactivation", Funded 1992-2016.

Director, Project 3, AI098681 “Innate immunity and the HSV lytic/latent balance”. Program Project (D.M. Coen, Harvard Medical School, Director)
NIH NIAID PO1 “Viral and host mechanisms that tilt the HSV lytic/latent balance”. Funded 2013-2018.

Subaward 1R21AI05896-01 “Antagonizing miRNAs in a strategy to cure HSV latency”. Funded 2013-1015.

Courses Taught:

Microbiology (undergraduate), Fundamentals of Virology, Advanced Cellular and Molecular Immunology, Cellular and Molecular Basis of Immunity (graduate school), Immunology and Virology (medical school).

Selected Publications:


Dendritic Cell Autophagy Contributes to Herpes Simplex Virus-Driven Stromal Keratitis and Immunopathology.
Jiang Y, Yin X, Stuart PM, Leib DA
MBio. 2015 Oct 27;6(6):e01426-15. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01426-15. Epub 2015 Oct 27.
PMID: 26507231

Role of the DNA Sensor STING in Protection from Lethal Infection following Corneal and Intracerebral Challenge with Herpes Simplex Virus 1.
Parker ZM, Murphy AA, Leib DA
J Virol. 2015 Nov;89(21):11080-91. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00954-15. Epub 2015 Aug 26.
PMID: 26311879

Neurons versus herpes simplex virus: the innate immune interactions that contribute to a host-pathogen standoff.
Rosato PC, Leib DA
Future Virol. 2015 Jun;10(6):699-714.
PMID: 26213562

Neuronal Interferon Signaling Is Required for Protection against Herpes Simplex Virus Replication and Pathogenesis.
Rosato PC, Leib DA
PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jul;11(7):e1005028. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005028. Epub 2015 Jul 8.
PMID: 26153886

Intrinsic innate immunity fails to control herpes simplex virus and vesicular stomatitis virus replication in sensory neurons and fibroblasts.
Rosato PC, Leib DA
J Virol. 2014 Sep 1;88(17):9991-10001. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01462-14. Epub 2014 Jun 18.
PMID: 24942587

A neuron-specific host microRNA targets herpes simplex virus-1 ICP0 expression and promotes latency.
Pan D, Flores O, Umbach JL, Pesola JM, Bentley P, Rosato PC, Leib DA, Cullen BR, Coen DM
Cell Host Microbe. 2014 Apr 9;15(4):446-56. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2014.03.004.
PMID: 24721573

The differential interferon responses of two strains of Stat1-deficient mice do not alter susceptibility to HSV-1 and VSV in vivo.
Katzenell S, Chen Y, Parker ZM, Leib DA
Virology. 2014 Feb;450-451:350-4. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2013.12.015. Epub 2014 Jan 14.
PMID: 24503098

Synergistic control of herpes simplex virus pathogenesis by IRF-3, and IRF-7 revealed through non-invasive bioluminescence imaging.
Murphy AA, Rosato PC, Parker ZM, Khalenkov A, Leib DA
Virology. 2013 Sep;444(1-2):71-9. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2013.05.034. Epub 2013 Jun 16.
PMID: 23777662

Herpes simplex virus encephalitis: toll-free access to the brain.
Leib DA
Cell Host Microbe. 2012 Dec 13;12(6):731-2. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2012.11.005.
PMID: 23245315

Herpes simplex virus γ34.5 interferes with autophagosome maturation and antigen presentation in dendritic cells.
Gobeil PA, Leib DA
MBio. 2012 Oct 16;3(5):e00267-12. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00267-12. Epub 2012 Oct 16.
PMID: 23073763