4514A Thomas Hall
Campus Box 7615
Scott M. Laster
Research in my laboratory focuses on the anti-viral immune response. One aspect of this response currently under investigation is the apoptosis-inducing activity of tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is a product of many cells, including; macrophages and monocytes, and is released by these cells during infection. TNF is able to act in an anti-viral manner by causing the death of infected cells before virus replication is complete, thereby reducing the number of infectious virions that are produced. The apoptosis-inducing activity of TNF is selective for infected cells because these cells are unable to transcribe appropriate levels of NF-kB-dependent, anti-apoptotic gene products. The virus under investigation in my laboratory is the human adenovirus. While not a major human pathogen, the adenovirus represents an excellent model system for studies of Molecular and Cellular Immunology. Recent studies from my laboratory suggest that adenovirus induces susceptibility to TNF by preventing the expression of a tyrosine or dual specificity phosphatase. I have proposed that this phosphatase normally acts in an anti-apoptotic manner by inhibiting apoptotic signal transduction through the dephosphorylation of cytosolic phospholipase A2.
Another aspect of the anti-viral immune response under investigation in my laboratory is the immune response to the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV). This virus causes reproductive failure in sows and serious respiratory disorders in neonates. PRRSV is widespread among swine populations worldwide and is a serious economic problem in North Carolina. I am studying the relative contributions made by humoral and cellular immune compartments to the PRRSV immune response. I am also attempting to produce a vaccine for PRRSV. PRRSV genes are being cloned and transferred to attenuated strains of Salmonella. This type of vector has been selected because attenuated strains of Salmonella induce strong mucosal immunity. A strong mucosal immune response may be beneficial for PRRSV since the virus enters through the nasal/oral route and replicates primarily in the alveolar macrophage.
Scott Laster was born and raised in Baldwin, New York, a suburb of New York City that is located along the south shore of Long Island. The tremendous population growth in this area during the 1950's and 1960's led to many environmental problems (similar to the problems now being felt in North Carolina) and stimulated Scott's interest in science. During high school he lead an Explorer post, which worked in conjunction with the local county government to improve environmental education in the area. Also during high school he was awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to spend a summer at Florida State University where he researched the effects of pollutants on the growth of microscopic marine algae. It was this experience that triggered his tremendous interest in the unseen microbial world. Subsequently, he received a B.S. degree in microbiology from the University of Maine at Orono in 1978. At this point he also became interested in understanding how the mammalian immune system defends against attack by dangerous microbes. For graduate school, Scott returned to Florida State University where he obtained a Ph.D. degree in immunology (1984). He then continued his training in immunology as a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia from 1984-1989. He joined the faculty of North Carolina State University in 1989 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1995. His research at present focuses on a self-destruct response, known as apoptosis, which can be activated in cells when they become damaged, poisoned, or infected by viruses. This work should eventually lead to new treatments for viral and autoimmune diseases. Scott is also attempting to develop a new vaccine for the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus; a virus that is having devastating affects on the swine industry of North Carolina. Scott teaches several courses in immunology.