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Xiaofeng Wang

Associate Professor
Xiaofeng Wang
549 Latham Hall (0390)
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Positive-strand RNA [(+)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, Zika virus, and poliovirus. Despite diverse host range and genome organization, all (+)RNA viruses share similar strategies in RNA replication, the most critical step during viral infection. My lab uses engineered Brome mosaic virus (BMV)-yeast and BMV-Nicotiana benthamiana systems to study viral RNA replication and virus-host interactions. BMV, essentially BMV replication protein 1a, induces invaginations of the perinuclear ER membrane into the ER lumen to form viral replication complexes (VRCs). Understanding how BMV modulates host membrane rearrangements and lipid synthesis to accommodate these alterations will reveal underlying functional and structural similarities among numerous (+)RNA viruses, and develop antiviral strategies that are applicable to a wide-range of plant (+)RNA viruses that infecting various crops.


  • Virology and cell biology


  • China Agricultural University, Plant Genetics & Breeding, BS
  • Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Plant Genetics & Breeding, MS          
  • Michigan State University Genetics, PhD

Current Projects

“Virus-host interactions in the assemble of positive-strand RNA virus replication complexes” (NSF-IOS funded)

To examine several specific steps leading to the formation of VRCs: including how BMV 1a is specifically targeted to the perinuclear ER membrane, how BMV 1a interacts with host lipids and proteins to reorganize membranes, and how BMV modulates lipid synthesis to optimize the VRC microenvironment. Antiviral strategies will be developed to control viral replications based on the information generated in the project.     

“Systems biology approaches to dissect virus-host interactions to develop crops with broad-spectrum virus resistance” [US-Israel Binational Agriculture Research and Development Fund (BARD)]

To systemically identify host proteins that are recruited to and required for function of BMV VRCs in yeast and plants. Key genes required for viral replication will be targeted to develop virus-resistant crops via genome editing approaches.  

  • PPWS5054: Plant Pathogenic Agents, Spring, odd years
  • PPWS5454: Plant Disease Physiology and Development, Fall, odd years

Associate Professor | 2018 – Present
School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Assistant Professor | 2012 - 2018
Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, & Weed Science
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.    

Assistant Professor | 2009 - 2012
Texas AgriLife Research and Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology
Texas A&M University System

Assistant Scientist | 2007 - 2009
Institute for Molecular Virology
University of Wisconsin-Madison       

Post-doctoral Researcher | 2002 - 2007
Institute for Molecular Virology/Howard Hughes Medical Institute University of Wisconsin

  • Henderson Award for outstanding faculty member in PPWS, Virginia Tech, 2018
  • Outstanding Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor, Office of Undergraduate Research, Virginia Tech, 2018

Papers published in last five years (*: Corresponding author)

  1. He G., Zhang Z., Sathanantham P., Zhang X., Wu Z., Xie L.* and Wang X.* (2019) An engineered mutant of a host phospholipid synthesis gene inhibits viral replication without compromising host fitness. J. of Biological Chemistry 294:13973-13982.
  2. Zhang Z., He G., Filipowicz N.A, Randall G., Belov G.A.*, Kopek B.G.*, and Wang X.* (2019) Host lipids in postivie-strand RNA virus genome replication. Frontiers in Microbiology 10: 286.
  3. Zhang Z., He G., Han G.S., Zhang J., Catanzaro N., Diza A., Wu Z., Carman G.M., Xie L.* and Wang X.* (2018) Host Pah1p phosphatidate phosphatase limits viral replication by regulating phospholipid synthesis. PLoS Pathogens 14: e1006988.
  4. Liu H.#, Soyars C.L.#, Li J.#, Fei Q., He G., Peterson, B.A., Meyers B.C, Nimchuk Z. L., and Wang X. *. (2018) CRISPR-Cas9-mediated resistance to cauliflower mosaic virus. Plant Direct, 2: 1-9. #: Equal contribution.
  5. 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.
  6. Li J., Fuchs S., Zhang J., Wellford S., Schuldiner M., and Wang X.* (2016) J. Cell Science 129: 3597-3608.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. (Featured in SPOTLIGHT)
  9. 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 11/30/2015.
  10. 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.
  11. Santhanantham, P., Zhao, W., He, G., Fenech, E., Murray, A., Yang, C., Diaz, A., Schuldiner, M., Wang, X. (2022) A conserved viral amphipathic helix governs the replication site-specific membrane association. PLoS Pathogens 18: e1010752.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010752
  12. Kang L., He G., Sharp A. K., Wang X., Brown A. M., Michalak P.*, and Weger-Lucarelli J*. (2021) A selective sweep in the Spike gene has driven SARS-CoV-2 human adaptation. Cell 184: 1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.07.007 
  13. Zhao W., Zhou Y., Zhou X.*, Wang X.*, Ji Y.* (2021) Host GRXC6 restricts Tomato yellow leaf curl virus infection by inhibiting the nuclear export of the V2 protein. PLoS Pathog 17: e1009844. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1009844
  14. He G., Zhang Z., Sathanantham P., Diaz A.*, and Wang X.* (2021) Brome mosaic virus (Bromoviridae). In: Encyclopedia of Virology (Bamford, D.H. and Zuckerman, M. eds.), 4th edition, vol. 3, pp. 252–259. Oxford: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-809633-8.21294-6
  15. Varkey J., Zhang J., Kim J., George G., He, G., Belov G., Langen R.*, and Wang X.* (2020) An amphipathic alpha-helix domain from poliovirus 2C protein tubulates lipid vesicles. Viruses, 12: 1466. doi:10.3390/v12121466
  16. Zimbres F. M., Valenciano A. L., Merino E. F., Holderman N. R., Florentin A., He G., Gawarecka K., Skorupinska-Tudek K., Fernandez-Maria M., Swiezewska E., Wang X., Muralidharan V., and Cassera M. B. * (2020). Metabolomics profiling reveals new aspects of dolichol biosynthesis in Plasmodium falciparum. Sci Rep. 10: 13264. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-70246-0
  17. Zhao W., Wu S., Barton E., Fan Y., Ji Y.*, Wang X.*, and Zhou Y.* (2020) Tomato yellow leaf curl virus V2 protein plays a critical role in the nuclear export of V1 protein and viral systemic infection. Frontiers in Microbiology 11:1243. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01243