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NIDCR to Provide $5M for Research into Oral Virus Epigenetics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research plans to award up to $5 million next year for basic, translational, and preclinical studies aiming to discover the epigenetic basis of oral diseases that are caused by viruses.

These projects will demonstrate how epigenomic modifications in hosts and in viruses can cause changes in oral cells and tissues that result in oral diseases.

NIDCR is particularly encouraging applications for projects that propose genome-wide, biochemical, and molecular epigenetic approaches on a range of oral diseases caused by HIV, HPV, Herpes Simplex Virus, Epstein Barr Virus, Adenovirus, Human Herpesvirus 8, Kaposi's sarcoma Virus, and others.

Funded through two grant mechanisms, the awards will fund R01 research project grants and R21 exploratory/developmental project grants that will pursue several central objectives.

These projects will try to delineate epigenetic modifications and interactions in oral cells and tissues that bring about or progress oral diseases; define the epigenomic mechanisms involved in responses against oral viruses, or chromatin exchange in anti-viral host responses; characterize the epigenomic deregulation of a host's biological processes that lead to these oral diseases; define mechanisms by which epigenomic modifications may inhibit viruses and could decrease infection; and define mechanisms by which drugs and therapies affect interactions between host and virus.

Viruses have been shown to have the capability to cause epigenetic alterations in host genomes and to modulate immune responses, such as innate immunity and the production of interferon. But the underlying mechanisms, and how they may lead to oral diseases, is poorly understood, according to NIDCR.

Epigenetic changes in the genomes of oral viruses also have been reported, and those changes could lead to viral latency, reactivation, and lytic replication, although the link between the epigenetic change and such outcomes is not known.

"Therefore, it is fundamental to understand host and viral epigenomic profiles as well as epigenetic marks and mechanisms involved in physiological changes linked to oral diseases. It is expected that these findings will guide the development of novel therapeutic modalities for improving oral health," NIDCR said in its funding announcement.

Specifically, NIDCR would like to see researchers apply for funding to investigate mechanisms by which host epigenomic modifications regulate viral pathogenicity and interactions with oral cells and tissues; the role of epigenomic changes that occur in viruses and oral cells that result in oral diseases; and mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming of host genes and their impacts on oral diseases. It also seeks to fund integration of disease-associated oral viral and host-epigenomic marks into the Human Epigenome Browser; efforts to generate genome-wide epigenomic maps, marks, or other regulatory elements in normal and oral disease cell types; and studies of the effects of therapeutics on altering epigenetic marks of oral viruses, among others.

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