Welcome! I am now a retired professor emeritus of Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts. Teaching virology has been a most rewarding aspect of my career. I especially enjoyed enlivening my lectures with a variety of relevant anecdotes. Some of these were recounted in my textbook (Virology: Molecular Biology and Pathogenesis by Leonard C. Norkin, ASM Press, 2010) and will be retold here in enhanced versions. Others will be brand new. Several of these vignettes are appealing because they are amusing. Others are intriguing for their social or political relevance, or describe instances of extraordinary courage or persistence. The overall theme is that scientists (virologists in these instances) carry out their work in a setting that includes their colleagues, the general public, and their governments, and the consequences of their interactions with each can be comic, heroic, and, sometimes, tragic. I intend for each tale to be characterized by one or more especially interesting and little known fact. To read these stories link to my blog: https://norkinvirology.wordpress.com/
My most recent research involved characterizing the simian virus 40 (SV40) entry pathway. Key findings of my group include the following. First, SV40 enters cells via caveola-mediated endocytosis. Indeed, ours was the first demonstration that an intracellular microbial pathogen might invade cells via this means. The atypical caveola-mediated SV40 entry pathway then delivers the virus to the endoplasmic reticulum; a rather unusual site for cargo taken up by endocytosis. Next, we established that the virus begins to disassemble in the ER, as shown by our finding that its internal capsid proteins become accessible to antibodies in that organelle. The virus is then released from the ER into the cytoplasm, where it undergoes further dis-assembly that exposes its BrdU-labelled genomic DNA to anti-BrdU antibodies. The cytoplasmic, partially disassembled SV40 particles still retain some of the SV40 capsid proteins, VP1, VP2, and VP3, in addition to the viral genome. Most recently we found that the SV40 genome disassociates from its capsid proteins before or at the point of entry into the nucleus, and then enters the nucleus devoid of those proteins. I recently served as Chairperson of the Polyomavirus Study Group of the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).