Dr. MarcOs Ortega, Chemistry and biochemistry


Biochemical, biophysical, and structural approaches to study viral replication and assembly using X-Ray crystallography and enzyme kinetics.  

Research Areas

Professor Ortega studies double stranded DNA viruses utilizing the bacteriophages as a model system to understand viral replication and assembly in this family of viruses.   The Ortega lab approaches the research from a biochemical and structural perspective using biochemical assays, biophysical approaches, and X-Ray crystallography.   The work in the Ortega lab hopes to connect protein structure with protein function to try and understand how viral proteins utilize complex structures to initiate viral replication and virion assembly in an energy intensive process.


The goal of the Ortega lab is to understand the chemical and thermodynamic processes that regulate and promote viral assembly and produce more infectious particles.   The biochemical data can be utilized to better understand viral replication in the eukaryotic double stranded DNA viruses and also to develop viral therapies for this family of viruses.     The energy intensive process of viral replication is also studied at the molecular and structural level to try and understand how the massive amounts of energy are produced from chemically simple biomolecules.   The ability to elucidate the molecular details of this energy production could prove useful when considering alternative energy sources.  


Lambert, S., Yang, Q., de Angeles, R., Chang, J.R., Ortega, M., Catalano, C.E. (2017) “Molecular Dissection of the Forces Responsible for Viral Capsid Assembly and Stabilization by Decoration Proteins” Biochemistry , Feb 7, 56(5), 767-778.


Dasgupta, J., Bienkowska-Haba, M., Ortega, M.E., Patel, H.D., Bodevin, S., Spillmann, D., Bishop, B., Sapp, M., Chen, X.S. (2010) “Structural Basis of Oligosaccharide Receptor Recognition by Human PapillomavirusJournal of Biological Chemistry , Jan 28, 286 (4), 2617-2624.


Ortega, M.E., Gaussier, H., and Catalano, C.E. (2007) “The DNA Maturation Domain of gpA, the DNA Packaging Motor Protein of Bacteriophage Lambda, Contains an ATPase Site Associated with Endonuclease ActivityJournal of Molecular Biology , 373 (4), 851-865.


Ortega, M.E. and Catalano, C.E. (2006) “Bacteriophage Lambda gpNu1 and Escherichia coli IHF Proteins Bind and Bend Viral DNA:   Implications for the Assembly of a Genome-Packaging Motor” Biochemistry , 45, 5180-5189.


Gaussier, H., Ortega, M.E., Maluf, N.K., and Catalano, C.E. (2005) “Nucleotides Regulate the Conformational State of the Small Terminase Subunit from Bacteriophage Lambda: Implications for the Assembly of a Viral Genome-Packaging Motor” Biochemistry , 44, 9645-56.


de beer, T., Fang, J., Ortega, M.E., Yang, Q., Maes, L., Duffy, C., Berton, N., Sippy, J., Overduin, M., Feiss, M., and Catalano, C.E. (2002) “Insights into Specific DNA Recognition During the Assembly of a Viral Genome Packaging Machine” Molecular Cell , 9, 981-991.