Xiaofeng Wang

Assistant Professor

Program Focus

Viral replication mechanisms and virus-host interactions of positive-strand RNA viruses

Positive-strand RNA viruses [(+)RNA viruses] are the largest viral class, including the vast majority of plant viruses as well as many important human and animal pathogens, such as hepatitis C virus and SARS coronavirus. Despite diverse host range and genome organization, all (+)RNA viruses share similar strategies in RNA replication, the most critical step in viral life cycle. My lab uses engineered Brome mosaic virus (BMV)-yeast and BMV-N. benthamiana systems to study viral RNA replication and virus-host interactions. BMV, essentially BMV replication protein 1a, induces perinuclear ER membrane invaginations into the ER lumen to form viral replication compartments. Understanding how BMV modulates host membrane rearrangement and lipid synthesis to accommodate these alterations will reveal underlying functional and structural similarities among all (+)RNA viruses. We currently focus on the interactions between host lipid synthesis/composition and viral replication complex assembly. The goals are to advance our understanding of the viral RNA replication mechanism and develop broad-spectrum antiviral strategies.

Current Projects

NSF IOS 1120598

‘Functional roles of host fatty acyl-CoA binding protein in assembly and function of positive-strand RNA virus replication complexes’


Ph.D., Genetics, Michigan State University, 2002

M.S., Plant genetics and breeding, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 1995

B.S., Plant genetics and breeding, China Agricultural University, 1992


  • Aug. 2012 - present: Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, Blacksburg, VA
  • Aug. 2009 - July 2012: Assistant Professor, Texas AgriLife Research Center, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University system, Weslaco, TX
  • July 2007 - July 2009: Assistant Scientist, Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • June 2002 - June 2007: Post-doctoral Research Associate, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • July 1997 - May 2002: Research Assistant, Genetics Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI  
  • Aug 1995 - June 1997: Group leader, Biotechnology Research Center, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China

Courses Taught

  • PPWS 5054 - Plant pathogenic agents, Plant virology section
  • PPWS 5454 - Plant Disease Physiology & Development, Virus-host interactions

Program Focus

The focus of my outreach program is to foster research interest of and provide training and research opportunities to students from the underrepresented groups.  

Current Projects

‘A pilot program recruiting Hispanic students for Molecular Plant Pathology at PPWS’

Co-sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, PPWS, MPS, and Latham Hall research funds.

  • Li J., Fuchs S., Zhang J., Wellford S., Schuldiner M., and Wang X. * (2016) An unrecognized function for COPII components in recruiting a viral replication protein to the perinuclear endoplasmic reticulum. J. Cell Science. ePub 08/18/2016 doi: 10.1242/jcs.190082 * Corresponding author.
  • Zhang J., Zhang Z., Chukkapalli V., Nchoutmboube J., Li j., Randall G., Belov G., and Wang X. * (2016) Positive-strand RNA viruses stimulate host phosphatidylcholine synthesis at viral replication sites. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 113: E1064-1073. ePub 02/08/2016. doi:10.1073/pnas.1519730113 * Corresponding author
  • Odokonyero D., Mendoza M.R., Alvarado V.Y., Zhang J., Wang X., and Scholthof H.B. 2015 Transgenic down-regulation of ARGONAUTE2 expression in Nicotiana benthamiana interferes with several layers of antiviral defenses. Virology 486: 209-218. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2015.09.008
  • Liu H., Tolin S., Bush E., Creswell T., Hansen M.A., and Wang X. 2015 First report of Tomato spotted wilt virus on Pittosporum tobira in the United States. Plant Disease. ePub 09/01/2015. 
  • Cao X., Jin X., Zhang X., Li Y, Wang C., Wang X., Hong J., Wang X., Li D., and Zhang Y. (2015) Morphogenesis of the ER membrane-invaginated vesicles during Beet black scorch virus infection: The role of auxiliary replication protein and new implications of three-dimensional architecture. Journal of Virology, 89: 6184-6195, ePub 04/2015, doi:10.1128/JVI.00401-15 (Featured in SPOTLIGHT)
  • Diaz A., Zhang J., Ollwerther A., Wang X*., and Ahlquist P*. (2015) Host ESCRT proteins are required for Bromovirus RNA replication compartment assembly and function. PLoS Pathogens 11: e1004742. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004742  *: Co-corresponding authors
  • Diaz A.*, and Wang X.* 2014 Bromovirus-induced remodeling of host membranes during viral RNA replication. Current Opinion in Virology 9:104-110. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2014.09.018 * Co-corresponding authors
  • Zhang J. *, Li J., Garcia-Ruiz H., Bates P., Mirkov T., and Wang X.* 2014 A stearoyl-acyl carrier protein desaturase, NbSACPD-C, is critical for ovule development in Nicotiana benthamiana. The Plant Journal 80: 489-502. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12649 * Co-corresponding authors

  • Hao L., Lindenbach B., Wang X., Dye B., Kushner D., He Q., Newton M., and Ahlquist P. 2014 Genome-wide analysis of host factors in Nodavirus RNA replication. PLoS One 9: e95799. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095799. PMCID: PMC3994138
  • Gao S.J., Damaj, M. B., Park J.W., Beyene G., Buenrostro-Nava M.T., Molina J., Wang X., Ciomperlik, J.J., Manabayeva S.A., Alvarado V., Y., Rathore K.S., Scholthof, H.B., Mirkov T.E. (2013) Enhanced transgene expression in sugarcane by co-expression of virus-encoded RNA silencing suppressors, PLoS One 8: e66046. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066046
  • Zhang J.#, Diaz A.#, Mao L., Ahlquist P., and Wang X.* (2012) Host acyl Coenzyme A binding protein regulates replication complex assembly and activity of a positive-strand RNA virus. Journal of Virology 86: 5110-5121, # Equal contribution, * Corresponding author
  • Wang X.*, Diaz A., Hao L., Gancarz B., den Boon J. A., and Ahlquist P.*  (2011) Intersection of the multivesicular body pathway and lipid homeostasis in RNA replication of a positive-strand RNA virus. Journal of Virology 85: 5494-5503, *: Co-corresponding authors (Featured in SPOTLIGHT)
  • Diaz A., Wang X., and Ahlquist P. (2010) Membrane-shaping host reticulon proteins play crucial roles in viral RNA replication compartment formation and function. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107: 16291-16296
  • Liu L., Westler W., den Boon J., Wang X., Diaz A., and Ahlquist P. (2009) Crucial roles of an amphipathic alpha helix in membrane association and function of brome mosaic virus replication factor 1a. PLoS Pathogens 5: e1000351.
  • Wang, X., and Ahlquist P. (2008) Filling a GAP(DH) in Asymmetric Viral RNA Synthesis. Cell Host & Micobe. 3: 124-125
  • Wang, X., and Ahlquist P. (2008) Brome mosaic virus. In: Encyclopedia of Virology (B.W.J. Mahy and M. H. V. Regenmortel, eds), Third Edition, pp. 381-386, Academic Press, New York.
  • Wang, X., Lee, W.M., Watanabe, T., Schwartz, M., Janda, M., and Ahlquist, P. (2005) Brome mosaic virus 1a nucleoside triphosphatase/helicase domain plays crucial roles in recruiting RNA replication templates. Journal of Virology 79: 13747-13758 (Featured in SPOTLIGHT)
  • Wang X., and Grumet R. (2004) Identification and characterization of proteins that interact with the carboxy terminus of poly(A)-binding protein and inhibit translation in vitro. Plant Molecular Biology 54: 85-98
  • Wang X., Ullah Z., and Grumet R. (2000) Interaction between zucchini yellow mosaic potyvirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and host poly- (A) binding protein. Virology 275:433-443
Xiaofeng Wang
  • (540) 231-1868
  • reachxw@vt.edu
  • 549 Latham Hall
    Mail code: 0390
    220 Ag Quad Lane
    Blacksburg, VA 24061