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Research keywords: HIV, pathogenesis, replication, neuroAIDS, latency, resistance

Charles P. Postelle, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry
Diversity Committee Member

Director, UNC Center for AIDS Research; Microbiology and Immunology – joint appointment
(PhD – University of California, Irvine)



  • Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award: 2020
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology: 2014
  • Charles Postelle Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry: 2014
  • NIH Merit Award: 2005-2015
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science: 2001
  • ACS Junior Faculty Award: 1986-1988


The Swanstrom lab has a long-standing interest in HIV-1 replication and pathogenesis, including using genetic diversity to study important biological questions surrounding HIV-1. Genetic diversity is the result of evolution in a changing environment. Understanding the nature of viral diversity provides insight into the environment the virus experiences within the host, i.e. this is how the virus talks to us. This general approach can be applied in many settings. We have compared viral populations in different locations in the body (e.g. blood vs the genital tract or the CNS) and often find distinct viral populations. These populations can evolve distinct phenotypes given the different environments in these locations, phenotypes that can contribute to pathogenesis, such as in HIV-associated dementia. Genetic diversity in the latent viral reservoir can provide information about when the reservoir was created in the course of the infection, and diversity in the rebound virus can provide information about how active the reservoir is. Diversity in the viral surface Env protein has led to a new strategy for vaccine development, and diversity during selection for drug resistance is guiding drug design for new viral protease inhibitors. Finally, we are exploring the use of drugs that force the virus to increase the level of diversity as part of a strategy to drive the virus to error catastrophe and extinction.


  • Ping L-H, Joseph SB, Anderson JA, Abrahams M-R, Salazar-Gonzalez JF, Kincer LP, Treurnicht FK, Arney LA, Ojeda S, Zhang M, Keys J, Chu H, Moore P, Salazar MG, Iyer S, Jabara C, Kirchherr J, Mapanje C, Ngandu N, Seoighe C, Hoffman I, Gao F, Tang Y, Labranche C, Lee B, Saville A, Vermeulen M, Fiscus S, Morris L, Karim SA, Haynes BF, Shaw GM, Korber BT, Hahn BH, Cohen MS, Montefiori D, Williamson C, Swanstrom R. Comparison of the Viral Env Protein From Acute and Chronic Infections of Subtype C HIV-1 Suggests A New Strategy For Immunogen Design. Journal of Virology. 87:7218-7233, 2013. PMC3700278.
  • Sturdevant CB, Joseph SB, Schnell G, Price RW, Swanstrom R, Spudich S. Compartmentalized replication of R5 T cell-tropic HIV-1 in the central nervous system early in the course of infection. PLoS Pathogens. 11:e1004720, 2015. PMC4374811.
  • Zhou S, Jones C, Mieczkowski P, Swanstrom R. Primer ID Validates Template Sampling Depth and Greatly Reduces the Error Rate of Next Generation Sequencing of HIV-1 Genomic RNA Populations. Journal of Virology. 89:8540-8555, 2015. PMC4524263.
  • Potempa M, Nalivaika E, Ragland D, Lee S-K, Schiffer CA, Swanstrom R. A Direct Interaction With RNA Dramatically Enhances the Catalytic Activity of the HIV-1 Protease In Vitro. Journal of Molecular Biology. 427:2360-2378, 2015. PMC4465046.
  • Bednar MM, Hauser BM, Zhou S, Jacobson JM, Eron JJ Jr, Frank I, Swanstrom R. Diversity and tropism of HIV-1 Rebound virus populations in plasma level after treatment discontinuation. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 214:403-407, 2016. PMC4936648.
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