January 18, 2019

J. Craig Forrest, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Research Interest Statement

My research team is working to understand how gammaherpesviruses (GHVs) cause disease. GHVs are DNA tumor viruses that include the human pathogens Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the virus that causes mono, and Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a serious problem in immune compromised patients. These viruses establish life-long, chronic infections that can lead to cancer; for instance, EBV is estimated to cause over 200,000 new cases of cancer per year.

Our research employs multidisciplinary approaches, especially state-of-the-art genetic and “omics” techniques to determine how GHVs infect their hosts and persist long term, how the immune response controls infection and limits cancer development, and which cellular tumor suppressors – especially p53 – prevent oncogenic mutations associated with infection. We hope to better understand the viral processes that enable GHV infection and promote disease through this work, thereby identifying new ways to prevent cancers caused by these viruses.


National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute
R01CA165067 Gammaherpesvirus interactions with tumor suppressor p53
Principal Investigator

National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
R21AI139797 Understanding the contribution of atypical B cell progenitors to the humoral response

National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
R21139580 Defining the efficacy of replication-dead viruses as gammaherpesvirus vaccines
Co-Principal Investigator

COBRE Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Responses
Collaborative Project: Defining mechanisms of gammaherpesvirus establishment and maintenance
Co-Principal Investigator

*cancer-related annual direct costs

Dr. Forrest’s UAMS Collaborators

Jason Stumhofer, Ph.D. (Microbiology and Immunology)
Rick Edmondson, Ph.D. (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
Intawat Nookaew, Ph.D. (Department of Biomedical Informatics)

Dr. Forrest’s External Collaborators

Laurie T. Krug, Ph.D. (SUNY – Stony Brook; Stony Brook, New York)
Andrew D. Miller, D.V.M. (Cornell University; Ithaca, New York)
Darby G. Oldenburg, Ph.D. (Gundersen-Lutheran Health; La Crosse, Wisconsin)

Opportunities for Collaboration

If you’re interested in viruses that cause cancer and learning how to train the immune response to stop them, we should hang out.

You Might not Know that …

If I’m not at a kids’ swim meet, cross country meet or soccer game in my free time, I’m probably out running. I love to run, and I’ve been a distance runner since I was 15. I’ll be one of the pacers for the 3:40 pace group at the Little Rock Marathon in March. I’ve run several marathons, but this will be my first time pacing. So excited! Come join us!

Recent Cancer-Related Publications

Note: Since we work on GHVs, essentially all of our work is cancer related. Here are my favorite recent pubs.

Sifford, J.M., Stahl, J.A., Salinas, E., and Forrest, J.C. Murine gammaherpesvirus-68 LANA and SOX homologs counteract ATM-driven p53 activity during lytic viral replication. J. Virol. 90(5):2571-85, 2016. Journal Spotlight Article. (PMCID: PMC4810692)

Li, G., Ward, C., Yeasmin, R., Skiena, S., Krug, L.T., and Forrest, J.C. A codon-shuffling method to prevent reversion during production of replication-defective herpesvirus stocks: Implications for herpesvirus vaccines. Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 13;7:44404. doi: 10.1038/srep44404. (PMCID: PMC5347388)

Gupta, A., Oldenburg, D.G, Salinas, E., White, D.W., and Forrest, J.C. MHV68 expressing KSHV LANA reveals both functional conservation and divergence in LANA homologs. J. Virol. 2017 Sep 12;91(19). pii: e00992-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00992-17. (PMCID: PMC5599733)

Salinas, E., Gupta, A., Sifford, J.M., Oldenburg, D.G, White, D.W., and Forrest, J.C. Conditional Mutagenesis in vivo Reveals Cell Type- and Infection Stage-Specific Requirements for LANA in Chronic MHV68 Infection. PLOS Pathog. Jan 24;14(1):e1006865. 2018. (PMCID: PMC5798852)