Pilar Pérez Romero Associate Research Professor

Elucidating virus-host interaction during infection
Pilar Pérez Romero

Research Interests:

Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a widespread virus found in more than 70 percent of the population in high income countries and up to 100% of the population in low and middle income countries. After primary infection, CMV establishes lifelong latency, causing severe illness and death in individuals with an immature or dysfunctional immune system. Congenital infection results in intrauterine growth restriction and miscarriage, as well as neurological sequela in newborns. Immunosuppressed individuals are also at increased risk of CMV reactivation and disease. This makes CMV an interesting model system for studying virus-host interactions and aspects related to how the immune system controls viral infections. The immunological factors that correlate with protective immunity to CMV infection have not been completely defined, likely due to the complex interaction between CMV and the immune system, and the absence of an animal model that accurately reproduces human disease. This has severely limited our ability to study the interactions between CMV and the immune system.

In this context, our main research interests are focused on characterizing the interactions between CMV and the host cell at the level of gene expression, and identifying and characterizing viral gene products that play a role in regulating the host immune response. We employ various model systems in order to study these aspects of CMV pathogenesis including in vitro cell culture models in multiple cell lines, proteomic and transcriptomic methods for characterizing gene expression, and primary cells and plasma from solid organ transplant patients that have experienced episodes of post-transplant CMV infection due to the administration of immunosuppressive therapy. These model systems have allowed us to characterize CMV antigens that participate in inducing a protective neutralizing antibody and T cell-mediated immune response, and identify immunological correlates of protective immunity in our transplant model. In addition, we have identified a number of highly expressed viral genes that have not been characterized previously with respect to host immune regulation. One of the current focuses of our group is to apply the results of these transcriptomic and immunologic studies to the development of therapeutic and preventive approaches against CMV infection.

We believe that our research can contribute to addressing important global health issues and elucidate aspects of pathogen-host interactions, the immune response to infection, molecular virology, vaccinology and antiviral therapies. In addition, the tools that we are employing are highly applicable to other pathogens and areas of study.


  • Associate Research Professor, Department of Biological Science, University of Notre Dame IN. 2023-Present
  • Associate Professor in Virology National Centre for Microbiology Madrid, Spain. 2017-2023
  • Junior Faculty Biomedical Institute of Seville. Seville, Spain. 2006-2017
  • Visiting Scientist National Centre for Microbiology. Madrid, Spain. 2006
  • Postdoctoral Scientist. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, Michigan. 2001-2005
  • PhD Biological Science. University of Seville. Spain. 2000


  • Ph.D., Microbiology. University of Seville. Seville, Spain. 1995-2000
  • B.S., Biology. University of Seville. Seville, Spain. 1990-1995

Recent Papers: