Main navigation

Emily Cousins

Class 2009
Education BS, Clemsen University

Dr. John Nicholas

Current Position Postdoctoral Fellow

University of North Carolina Raleigh

Research Interests

Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), and multicentric Castleman’s disease (MCD) are malignancies highly associated with immunocompromised states such as those found in AIDS patients or transplant recipients. Early research on these diseases indicated that interleukin-6 (IL-6) may play a role in both KS and MCD. In 1994, Chang and Moore discovered Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) through representational difference analysis, finding DNA sequences in KS tissue (Kaposi sarcoma lesions) but not in normal tissue of the same host. Like other members of the herpesevirus family, HHV-8 has a linear, double-stranded DNA genome, an icosahedral capsid, an ill-defined tegument layer, and an envelope. The virus is further classified as a gamma herpesvirus. The HHV-8 genome encodes 87 open reading frames (ORFs); several of these ORFs encode homologs of cellular proteins. HHV-8 specific ORFs contain homologs of Bcl-2 (vBcl-2), chemokines (vCCL1, vCCL2, and vCCL3), interferon regulatory factors (vIRF1-4), cyclin (vcyclin), IL-6 (vIL-6) and others. I am working to understand how the viral homologs of human proteins perturb normal host processes in order to identify potential drug targets for the treatment of KS, PEL, and MCD.


Human herpesvirus 8 viral interleukin-6 signaling through gp130 promotes virus replication in primary effusion lymphoma and endothelial cells. Cousins E, Gao Y, Sandford G, Nicholas J. J Virol. 2014 Oct;88(20):12167-72 Epub 2014 Jul 30. PMID: 25078695

Role of human herpesvirus 8 interleukin-6-activated gp130 signal transducer in primary effusion lymphoma cell growth and viability. Cousins E, Nicholas J. J Virol. 2013 Oct;87(19):10816-27. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02047-13. Epub 2013 Jul 31. PMID: 23903842

Human herpesvirus 8 viral interleukin-6 interacts with splice variant 2 of vitamin K epoxide reductase complex subunit 1. Chen D, Cousins E, Sandford G, Nicholas J. J Virol. 2012 Feb;86(3):1577-88. doi: 10.1128/JVI.05782-11. Epub 2011 Nov 30. PMID: 22130532

Molecular biology of human herpesvirus 8: novel functions and virus-host interactions implicated in viral pathogenesis and replication. Cousins E, Nicholas J. Recent Results Cancer Res. 2014;193:227-68. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-38965-8_13. Review. PMID: 24008302