Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Sciences


Microbiology, Immunology, and Biochemistry

Research Advisor

Colleen B. Jonsson, PhD


Jason T. Ladner, PhD Kui Li, PhD Richard J. Webby, PhD Michael A. Whitt, PhD


field survey, hantavirus, next generation sequencing, SARS-CoV-2, single nucleotide polymorphism, whole genome sequencing


Two RNA virus families that pose a threat to human and animal health are Hantaviridae and Coronaviridae. These RNA viruses which originate in wildlife continue and will continue to cause disease, and hence, it is critical that scientific research define the mechanisms as to how these viruses spillover and adapt to new hosts to become endemic. One gap in our ability to define these mechanisms is the lack of whole genome sequences for many of these viruses. To address this specific gap, I developed a versatile amplicon-based whole-genome sequencing (WGS) approach to identify viral genomes of hantaviruses and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) within reservoir and spillover hosts.

In my research studies, I used the amplicon-based WGS approach to define the genetic plasticity of viral RNA within pathogenic and nonpathogenic hantavirus species. The standing genetic variation of Andes orthohantavirus and Prospect Hill orthohantavirus was mapped out and amino acid changes occurring outside of functional domains were identified within the nucleocapsid and glycoprotein. I observed several amino acid changes in functional domains of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, as well as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the 3’ non-coding region (NCR) of the S-segment. To identify whether virus adaptation would occur within the S- and L-segments we attempted to adapt hantaviruses in vitro in a spillover host model through passaging experiments. In early passages we identified few mutations in the M-segment with the majority being identified in the S-segment 3’ NCR and the L-segment. This work suggests that hantavirus adaptation occurs in the S- and L-segments although the effect of these mutants on pathology is yet to be determined. While sequencing laboratory isolates is easily accomplished, sequencing low concentrations of virus within the reservoir is a formidable task. I further translated our amplicon-based WGS approach into a pan-oligonucleotide amplicon-based WGS approach to sequence hantavirus vRNA and mRNA from reservoir and spillover hosts in Ukraine. This approach successfully identified a novel Puumala orthohantavirus (PUUV) strain in Ukraine and using Bayesian phylogenetics we found this strain to be associated with the PUUV Latvian lineage.

Early during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, I applied the knowledge gained in the hantavirus WGS efforts to sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 from nasopharyngeal swabs collected in April 2020. The genetic diversity of 45 SARS-CoV-2 isolates was evaluated with the methods I developed. We identified D614G, a notable mutation known for increasing transmission, in over 90% of our isolates. Two major lineages distinguish SARS-CoV-2 variants worldwide, lineages A and B. While most of our isolates were found within B lineage, we also identified one isolate within lineage A. We performed in vitro work which confirmed A lineage isolates as having poor replication in the trachea as compared to the nasal cavity. Five of these isolates presented a unique array of mutations which were assessed in the keratin 18 human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (K18-hACE2) mouse model for its response immunologically and pathogenically. We identified a distinction of pathogenesis between the A and B lineages with emphysema being common amongst A lineage isolates. Additionally, we discovered a small cohort of likely SNPs that defined the late induction of eosinophils during infection. In summary, this work will further define the dynamics of genetic variation and plasticity within virus populations that cause disease outbreaks and will allow a deeper understanding of the virus-host relationship.

Declaration of Authorship

Declaration of Authorship is included in the supplemental files.




2021-022- Taylor-DOA.pdf (279 kB)
Declaration of Authorship

supplemental data for chapter 5-v2.pdf (66 kB)
Supplemental Data Chapter 5