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Dr. Dembowski completed her graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh where she investigated mechanisms of alternative pre-mRNA splicing regulation in the nervous system. She then performed her postdoctoral work at Carnegie Mellon University where she investigated protein-RNA interactions and mechanisms of eukaryotic ribosome assembly. Continuing her interests in nucleic acid-protein interactions, she then pursued a second postdoctoral position at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where she developed proteomic and imaging techniques to study protein recruitment to viral DNA. Dr. Dembowski joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Duquesne University as an Assistant Professor in 2019. The Dembowski lab investigates the involvement of cellular proteins in the regulation of viral DNA replication and gene expression.


  • Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Pittsburgh, 2009
  • B.S. in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 2004

Research Interests

Herpesviruses are a large group of DNA viruses that infect a wide range of animal hosts, with eight known to infect humans. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a ubiquitous virus that infects over 60% of the human population causing a range of outcomes including asymptomatic infection, recurring cold sores, blindness, or encephalitis.

We are interested in determining how herpesviruses manipulate host cells to simultaneously escape DNA damage and immune responses while adapting host factors for use in viral processes. To identify host proteins involved in viral processes, we developed a new approach to purify HSV-1 DNA from infected cells for the identification of viral genome-associated proteins using mass spectrometry. This allowed us for the first time to comprehensively identify the viral and host proteins that interact with HSV-1 DNA from the time the viral genome enters into the nucleus through packaging of newly replicated viral DNA into nascent virions. We discovered that select host transcription, chromatin remodeling, DNA replication, and DNA repair proteins associate with HSV-1 genomes in a temporal manner and that protein recruitment is blocked in the absence of key viral factors. We are currently using genetic, proteomic, imaging, and high throughput sequencing approaches to define the functions of viral genome associated host proteins in the regulation of viral genome structure, gene expression, DNA replication, and DNA repair.


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Click Here for a full listing of publications: 

  • Dembowski JA and DeLuca NA. (2018) Temporal Viral Genome-Protein Interactions Define Distinct Stages of Productive Herpesviral Infection. mBio 9(4): e011820-18.
  • Dembowski JA* and DeLuca NA. (2017) Purification of Viral DNA for the Identification of Associated Viral and Cellular Proteins. J Vis Exp 126:e56374. *Corresponding authorship
  • Fox HL, Dembowski JA, and DeLuca NA. (2017) A Herpesviral Immediate Early Protein Promotes Transcription Elongation of Viral Transcripts. mBio 8(3): e00745-17.
  • Dembowski JA, Dremel SE, and DeLuca NA. (2017) Replication-Coupled Recruitment of Viral and Cellular Factors to Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Replication Forks for the Maintenance and Expression of Viral Genomes. PLoS Pathog 13(1): e1006166.
  • Dembowski JA and DeLuca NA. (2015) Selective Recruitment of Nuclear Factors to Productively Replicating Herpes Simplex Virus Genomes. PLoS Pathog 11(5): e1004939.
  • Dembowski JA, Ramesh M, McManus CJ, and Woolford JL Jr. (2013) Identification of the Binding Site of Rlp7 on Assembling 60S Ribosomal Subunits in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. RNA 19(12):1639-1647
  • Dembowski JA, Kuo B, and Woolford JL Jr. (2013) Has1 Regulates Consecutive Maturation and Processing Steps for Assembly of 60S Ribosomal Subunits. Nucleic Acids Res 41(16):7889-7904.
  • Dembowski JA and Grabowski PJ. (2013) Splicing Decisions Shape Neuronal Protein Function Across the Transcriptome. In Wu J, ed., Post-Transcriptional Gene Regulation: RNA Processing in Eukaryotes, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 163-180.
  • Dembowski JA, An P, Scoulos-Hanson M, Yeo G, Han J, Fu X, and Grabowski PJ. (2012) Alternative Splicing of a Novel Inducible Exon Diversifies the CASK Guanylate Kinase Domain. J Nucleic Acids 2012:816237.
  • Sahasranaman A, Dembowski J, Strahler J, Andrews P, Maddock J, and Woolford JL Jr. (2011) Assembly of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae 60S Ribosomal Subunits: Role of Factors Required for 27S pre-rRNA Processing. EMBO J 30(19): 4020-32.
  • Dembowski JA and Grabowski PJ. (2009) The CUGBP2 Splicing Factor Regulates an Ensemble of Branchpoints from Perimeter Binding Sites with Implications for Autoregulation. PLoS Genet 5(8):e1000595.
  • BIOL 115: Advanced General Biology 
  • BIOL 647: Advanced Cell & Molecular Biology
  • BIOL 490: Seminar 
  • BIOL 332: Virology