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Reed College Biology Professor Receives $150,000 from the National Institutes of Health to Study Virus-Host Interactions

NIH grant supports Peter Russell’s genetics research on Barley yellow dwarf virus.

Portland, OR (December 15, 2006) – Reed College professor of biology Peter Russell has been awarded a three-year grant of $150,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support his research on Barley yellow dwarf virus stop-codon readthrough in yeast.

Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is a pathogenic plant virus with an RNA genome that causes extensive destruction of barley and other cereal crops.

Russell has developed a system to quantify the expression of a BYDV gene in yeast—a model organism that, unlike plants, is highly amenable to genetic and molecular manipulations. With this system, he is identifying yeast genes that, when overexpressed, increase the expression of the BYDV gene. The products of these yeast genes are candidates for being involved in viral gene expression, and it is likely that many of the identified yeast genes will have counterparts in plants. In the long term, the research aims to contribute to our understanding at the molecular level of the interactions between viruses and their hosts.

Peter Russell, a member of the Reed faculty since 1972, received his B.Sc. from the University of Sussex, England, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University. In the past, Russell has supported his research with external grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Department of Defense Research Foundation, the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, and the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust; internal grants have come from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is the author of numerous journal articles as well as the textbooks iGenetics: A Molecular Approach and iGenetics: A Mendelian Approach (Benjamin Cummings 2006). He is the co-author of a major biology textbook, to be published in 2007 (Brooks/Cole). Russell has also contributed to the Biology Place (, a web site that provides classroom activities and information for both high school and college biology courses, including interactive study guides and research articles.