Dr. Hunter's research has primarily centered on elucidating the virus-cell interactions involved in the assembly and the entry of retroviruses. Understanding how independently targeted capsid and glycoprotein molecules are transported to the assembly site(s), what cellular pathways are utilized, and what roles cell- and virus-encoded gene products play in this process, is a major focus of his research. Because the major viral components traverse distinct pathways, Dr. Hunter's laboratory has characterized the factors that influence intracellular transport and assembly of both viral capsids and viral glycoproteins. He has also examined the signals and mechanisms that operate to include the viral glycoproteins into a budding virion and that mediate fusion. More recently, this information on glycoprotein structure and function has been applied to studies of the virologic correlates of HIV transmission within an African setting. Specifically, studies are underway to distinguish structural and functional differences between the glycosylated HIV envelope proteins that permit transmission into a new host versus the majority of related HIV envelope variants in the donor that fail to lead to a transmission event. Additional studies in collaboration with investigators at the UAB and in Perth, Australia, have recently been initiated to examine how a newly transmitted virus adapts to its new host-defined immune environment so as to evade detection and destruction. The knowledge gained from characterizing unique features of the transmitted envelope proteins and the process of immune escape, will be critical for the development of an effective HIV vaccine.