James Van Etten, PhD

William Allington Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Department of Plant Pathology
205 Morrison Center
Lincoln, NE 68583-0900
Phone: 402.472.3168
Fax: 402.472.3323

Please visit our Lab Webpage

Research Interests

Research in the Van Etten laboratory focuses on the isolation and characterization of large icosahedral, dsDNA-containing, plaque-forming viruses that infect certain unicellular, eukaryotic chlorella-like green algae.  These viruses are ubiquitous in fresh water from all over the world. The chlorella viruses have genomes as large as 370 kb that contain as many as 400 protein encoding- and 16 tRNA encoding-genes.  Besides their large genomes, the chlorella viruses have other unexpected features: (i) They encode multiple DNA methyltransferases and DNA restriction endonucleases.  (ii) Unlike other glycoprotein-containing viruses, chlorella viruses encode most, if not all, of the components required to glycosylate their proteins.  (iii) Many chlorella virus-encoded proteins are either the smallest or among the smallest proteins of their class.  Consequently, these proteins serve as models for mechanistic and structural studies.  Infection by the chlorella viruses resembles bacterial infection by tailed bacteriophages in many respects.

Selected Recent Publications

Arrigoni, C., Schroeder, I., Romani, G., Van Etten, J.L., Thiel, G., and Moroni, A. (2013). The voltage-sensing domain of a phosphatase gates the pore of a potassium channel. J. Gen Physiol. 141, 389-395. [Highlighted article]

 Jeanniard, A., Dunigan, D.D., Gurnon, J.R., Agarkova, I.V., Kang, M., Vitek, J., Duncan, G., McClung, O.W., Larsen, M., Claverie, J.M., Van Etten, J.L., Blanc, G. (2013). Towards defining the chloroviruses: a genomic journey through a genus of large DNAviruses.  BMC Genomics 14, 158.

 Rowe, J.M., Dunigan, D.D., Blanc, G., Gurnon, J.R., Xia, Y., Van Etten, J.L. (2013).  Evaluation of higher plant virus resistance genes in the green alga, Chlorella variabilis   NC64A, during the early phase of infection with Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus-1. Virology 442, 101-113. [Highlighted article]

 Thiel, G., Moroni, A., Blanc, G., Van Etten, J.L. (2013). Potassium ion channels: could they have evolved from viruses. Plant Physiol. 162, 1215-1224.

 Romani, G., Piotrowski, A., Hillmer, S., Gazzarrini, S., Gurnon, J.R., Van Etten, J.L., Moroni, A., Thiel, Hertel, B. (2013). Viral encode potassium ion channel is a structural protein in the chlorovirus PBCV-1 virion. J. Gen. Virol. 94, 2549-2556.

 De Castro, C., Molinaro, A., Piacente, F., Gurnon, J.R., Sturiale, L., Palmigiano, A., Lanzetta, R., Parrilli, M., Garosso, D., Tonetti, M., Van Etten, J.L. (2013). Structure of the N-linked oligosaccharides attached to virus PBCV-1 major capsid protein: an unusual class of complex N-glycans. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 13956-13960.

 Rowe, J.M., Jeanniard, A., Gurnon, J.R., Xia, Y., Dunigan, D.D., Van Etten, J.L., Blanc, G. (2014). Global analysis of Chlorella variabilis NC64A mRNA profiles during the early phase of Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus-1 infection.  PLoS ONE 9, e90988.

 Blanc, G., Mozar, M., Agarkova, I.V., Gurnon, J.R., Yanai-Balser, G., Rowe, J.M., Xia, Y., Riethoven, J.J., Dunigan, D.D., Van Etten, J.L. (2014). Deep RNA sequencing reveals hidden features and dynamics of early gene transcription in Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1. PLoS ONE 9, e90989.

 Bihmidine, S., Cao, M., Kang, M., Awada, T., Van Etten, J.L., Dunigan, D.D., Clemente, T.E. (2014). Expression of chlorovirus MT325 aquaglyceroporin (aqpv1) in tobacco and its role in mitigating drought stress. Planta 240, 209-221.

 Siotto, F., Martin, C., Rauh, O., Van Etten, J.L., Schroeder, I., Moroni, A., Thiel, G. (2014). Viruses infecting marine picoplancton encode functional potassium ion channels. Virology 466/467, 103-111.

 Agarkova, I., Hertel, B., Zhang, X., Lane, L., Tchourbanov, A., Dunigan, D.D., Thiel, G., Rossmann, M.D., Van Etten, J.L. (2014). Dynamic attachment of chlorovirus PBCV-1 to Chlorella variabilis. Virology 466/467, 95-102.

 Kang, M., Duncan, G., Kuszynski, C., Oyler, G., Zheng, J., Becker, D.F., Van Etten, J.L. (2014). Chlorovirus PBCV-1 encodes an active copper-zinc superoxide dismutase. J. Virol. 88, 12541-12550.

 Noel, E.A., Kang, M., Adamec, J., Van Etten, J.L., Oyler, G.A. (2014). Chlorovirus Skp1-binding ankyrin-repeat protein interplay and mimicry of cellular ubiquitin ligase machinery. J. Virol. 88, 13798-13810.

 Sirotkin, S., Mermet, A., Bergoin, M., Ward, V., Van Etten, J.L. (2014). Viruses as nanoparticles: structure versus collective dynamics. Physical Review E 90, 022718.

 Yolken, R.H., Jones-Brando, L., Dunigan, D.D., Kannan, G., Dickerson, F.B., Severance, E.G., Sabunciyan, S., Talbot, C.C., Prandovszky, E., Gurnon, J.R., Agarkova, I.V., Leister, F., Gressitt, K.L., Chen, O., Deuber, B., Ma, F., Pletnikov, M.V., Van Etten, J.L. (2014). Chlorovirus ATCV-1 is part of the human oropharyngeal virome and is associated with changes in cognitive functions in humans and mice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 16106-16111.

 Van Etten, J.L., Dunigan, D.D. (2015). Voyages with chloroviruses. In: The Phage World. Rohwer, F. (eds). p. 326-337.

 Thiel, G., Greiner, T., Dunigan, D.D., Moroni, A., Van Etten J.L. (2015). Large dsDNA chloroviruses encode diverse membrane transport proteins. Virology 479/480, 38-45.

 Cosentino, C., Alberio, L., Gazzarrini, S., Aquila, M., Romano, E., Cermenati, S., Zuccolini, P., Petersen, J., Beltrame, M., Van Etten, J.L., Christie, J.M., Thiel, G., Moroni, A. (2015). Engineering of a light-gated potassium channel. Science 348, 707-710.

 Milrot, E., Mutsafi, Y., Fridmann-Sirkis, Y., Shimoni, E., Rechav, K., Gurnon, J.R., Van Etten, J.L., Minsky, A. (2015). Virus-host interactions: Insights from the replication cycle of the large Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus. Cellular Microbiol. (in press) (Editor’s Choice).

 Petro, T.M., Agarkova, I.V., Zhou, Y., Yolken, R.H., Van Etten, J.L., Dunigan, D.D. (2015). Response of mammalian macrophages to challenge with the chlorovirus ATCV-1. J. Virol. 89, 12096-12107.

 De Castro, C., Speciale, I., Duncan, G., Dunigan, D.D., Agarkova, I., Lanzetta, R., Sturiale, L., Palmigiano, A., Garozzo, D., Molinaro, A., Tonetti, M., Van Etten, J.L. (201x). Chloroviruses N-linked glycans share a new type of conserved core architecture unprecedented in any form of life. Angewandte Chemie (in press).


Carleton College, Minnesota
BA, Biology

University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
MS, Plant Pathology

University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
PhD, Plant Pathology

University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
Postdoc, Molecular Biology

Professsional Experience

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Genetics
University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy, 1965-66

Assistant Professor, Plant Pathology
Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, 1966-69

Associate Professor, Plant Pathology
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 1969-74

Professor, Plant Pathology
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, 1974-86

William Allington Professor of Plant Pathology, 1986-93

William Allington Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology, 1993-present

Coordinator of the UNL Plant Science Initiative, 1997-99

Co-Director of the Nebraska Center for Virology, 2000-present

Membership on Editorial Boards and Government Panels: Editorial Board, Phytopathology, 1974-77

Associate Editor, Experimental Mycology, 1976-96

Editorial Board, Journal of Bacteriology, 1980-85

Editorial Board, Molecular and Cellular Biology, 1981-85

Associate Editor, Virology, 1989-present

Editorial Board, Molecular Plant Pathology, 1999-2003

Co-chairman of Gordon Conference on Fungal Metabolism, 1984

Committee member of NIH study section on Microbial Physiology, 1978, 1981, 1984-87

Committee member of the USDA Grants (Plant Pathology/Weeds) Panel, 1991, 1992

Honors and Professional Affiliations:

Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society, August 1989

Recipient of the University of Nebraska Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, 1992

Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993

Recipient of the Nebraska Sigma Xi outstanding scientist award, 1999

Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, 2001

Elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, 2003