Dr. Kevin Coombs

Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology
Adjunct Professor, Department of Microbiology
Adjunct Professor, Department of Physiology 
Scientist, Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

Degrees: M.A. (Texas, 1982), Ph.D. (Texas, 1986)

Mailing Address: Department of Medical Microbiology
795 John Buhler Research Centre
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0J9

Tel: (204) 789-3976 Fax: (204) 789-3926
E-mail: Kevin.Coombs@umanitoba.ca


Dr. Coombs is not currently accepting new students (September 2020)

Research Interests:
The goals of my research program are to better understand virus structure, function, assembly, and pathogenesis.

  1. We have been using mammalian reoviruses (MRV) and avian reoviruses (ARV) as models for understanding how multiple proteins and nucleic acids recognize each other and interact to generate a functionally active macromolecular complex. We have generated and characterized sets of assembly-defective temperature-sensitive (ts) mutants. These mutants, as well as normal wild-type virus, are being examined by biologic, molecular genetic, and mass spectroscopic methods to better understand virus assembly and disassembly. We also are conducting a variety of functional assays of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, an enzyme unique to virtually all RNA viruses but absent from host cells to aid development of therapeutic strategies to combat RNA viruses.
  2. Viruses induce profound changes in cells at both the genomic and protein levels. We are using state-of-the-art Systems Biology approaches, such as quantitative and comparative mass spectrometry, shRNAi, and Activity-Based Protein Profiling to understand the effects induced in the total cellular Proteome (entire protein repertoire, including all modifications) after various cells are infected with either reoviruses or influenza viruses.
  3. There are numerous strategies to combat infections by pathogenic organisms, including vaccination and anti-virals. We are testing the capacities of various anti-viral compounds to attenuate replication of reoviruses and influenza virus. We also are interested in selecting anti-viral-resistant mutants of each virus type to better understand molecular mechanisms of antiviral effects and resistance mechanisms.
  4. Viruses are the primary cause of infectious gastroenteritis and, importantly, many cases are caused by unknown viruses. Thus, we also seek to discover and molecularly characterize novel viral agents. We have discovered two such potentially new viruses that are currently under molecular analyses to allow comparison to other known agents and to establish diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.
  5. Recent work by Dr. Patrick Lee at the University of Calgary has shown that reovirus may have potential as an anti-cancer agent. To be used therapeutically, it will be necessary to grow industrial-sized quantities, and, because of dangers associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathies ("mad cow disease"), preferably in growth media devoid of animal products. In collaboration with Dr. Mike Butler in the Department of Microbiology at our University, we have been experimenting with growing industrial-sized amounts of virus in serum-free media.
  6. There is increased concern about the safety of available drinking water and environmental consequences of contaminated waste water and water runoff. In collaboration with Dr. Jan Oleszkiewicz, of the Department of Engineering, we are using the MRV as a “bio-indicator” to test the efficiency of various treatments during disinfection of water and wastewater.
  7. There also is increased concern about decontaminating medical devices. In collaboration with Dr. Michelle Alfa we are also using MRV “bio-indicators” to test various methods for decontaminating endoscopes and other medical devices.


For a list of Dr. Coombs' publications, please click here

  1. Dryden, K.A., Wang, G., Yeager, M., Nibert, M.L., Coombs, K.M., Furlong, D.B., Fields, B.N., and T.S. Baker. (1993). Early steps in reovirus infection are associated with dramatic changes in supramolecular structure and protein conformation:  Analysis of virions and subviral particles by cryoelectron microscopy and image reconstruction.  J. Cell Biol.  122: 1023-1041. [Cover illustration] . PMID: 8394844
  2. Coombs, K.M., Mak, S.-C., and Cox, L. (1994). Studies of the major reovirus core protein σ2:  Reversion of the assembly-defective mutant tsC447 is an intragenic process and involves back mutation of Asp-383 to Asn.  J. Virol.  68: 177-186. PMID: 8254727 
  3. Hazelton, P.R., and K.M. Coombs. (1995). The reovirus mutant tsA279 has temperature-sensitive lesions in the M2 and L2 genes:  The M2 gene is associated with reduced viral protein production and blockade in transmembrane transport.  Virology  207: 46-58. PMID: 7871752
  4. Yin, P., Cheang, M, and K.M. Coombs. (1996). The M1 gene is associated with differences in the temperature optimum of the transcriptase activity in reovirus core particles.  J. Virol. 70: 1223-1227. PMID: 8551584 
  5. Shing, M., and K.M. Coombs. (1996). Assembly of the reovirus outer capsid requires µ1/σ3 interactions which are prevented by misfolded σ3 protein in reovirus temperature-sensitive mutant tsG453Virus Res. 46: 19-29. PMID: 9029774
  6. Coombs, K.M.(1998). Stoichiometry of reovirus structural proteins in virus, ISVP, and core particles.  Virology 243: 218-228. PMID: 9527931 
  7. Coombs, K.M.(1998). Temperature-sensitive mutants of reovirus.  Curr. Topic Microbiol. Immunol. 233: 69-107. PMID: 9599922
  8. Berry, J.M., Bérnaby,N., Coombs, K.M., and M. Butler.  (1999).  Production of reovirus type-1 and type-3 from Vero cells grown on solid and macroporous microcarriers.  Biotech. Bioeng. 62: 12-19. PMID: 10099508
  9. Hazelton, P.R., and K.M. Coombs.  (1999). The reovirus mutant tsA279 L2 gene is associated with generation of a spike-less core particle: Implications for capsid assembly.  J. Virol. 73: 2298-2308. PMID: 9971813 
  10. Mendez, I.I., L.L. Hermann, P.R. Hazelton, and K.M. Coombs. (2000).  A comparative analysis of Freon substitutes in the purification of reovirus and calicivirus.  J. Virol. Meth. 90:59-67. PMID: 11011081
  11. Becker, M.M., Goral, M.I., Hazelton, P.R., Baer, G.S., Rodgers, S.E., Brown, E.G.,Coombs, K.M., and T.S. Dermody.  (2001).  Reovirus σNS protein localizes to viral inclusions and is required for viral assembly.  J. Virol.  75:1459-1475. [Cover illustration, subsequent month’s cover. PMID: 11152519
  12. Patrick, M., R. Duncan, andK.M. Coombs. (2001). Generation and genetic characterization of avian reovirus temperature-sensitive mutants. Virology 284:113-122. PMID 11352672
  13. Mendez, I., Y.-M. She, W. Ens, and K.M. Coombs. (2003). Digestion pattern of reovirus outer capsid protein sigma3 determined by mass spectrometry.  Virology 311:289-304. PMID: 12876456
  14. Hermann, L.L. and K.M. Coombs. (2004). Inhibition of reovirus by mycophenolic acid is associated with the M1 genome segment. J. Virol. 78:6171-6179. PMID: 15163710
  15. Xu, W., M.K. Patrick, P.R. Hazelton, and K.M. Coombs. (2004). Avian reovirus temperature-sensitive mutant tsA12 has a lesion in the major core protein σA and is defective in assembly. J. Virol. 78:11142-11151. PMID: 15452234
  16. Robertson, C.R., L.L. Hermann, and K.M. Coombs. (2004). Mycophenolic acid inhibits replication of avian reovirus. Antiviral Res.  64: 55-61. PMID: 15451179
  17. Brewster, J., A. Nartey, K.M. Coombs, and J.A. Oleszkiewicz. (2005). Enteric virus indicators of disinfection: Reovirus versus poliovirus. J. Envir. Engineer. 131:1010-1013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(2005)131:7(1010)
  18. Xu, W., A.T. Tran, M.K. Patrick, and K.M. Coombs. (2005). Assignment of avian reovirus temperature-sensitive mutants in recombination groups B, C, and D to genome segments. Virology 338:227-235. [Cover illustration]. PMID: 15955543
  19. Hadžisejdić, I., K. Cheng, J. Wilkins, W. Ens, and K.M. Coombs. (2006). High-resolution mass spectrometric mapping of reovirus digestion. Rapid Comm. Mass Spectrom. 20:438-446. PMID: 16395731
  20. Coombs, K.M. (2006). Reovirus Structure and Morphogenesis.  Curr. Topic Microbiol. Immunol. 309: 117-167. PMID: 16909899
  21. Mendez, I.I., S.G. Weiner, Y.-M. She, M. Yeager, and K.M. Coombs. (2008). Conformational changes accompany activation of reovirus RNA dependent RNA transcription. J. Struct. Biol. 162:277-289.  PMID: 18321727
  22. Tran, A.T., W. Xu, T. Racine, D.A. Silaghi, and K.M. Coombs. (2008). Assignment of avian reovirus temperature-sensitive mutants in recombination groups E, F, and G to genome segments. Virology 375:504-513. PMID: 18353422
  23. Douville, R.N., R.-C. Su, K.M. Coombs, F.E.R. Simons, and K.T. Hayglass. (2008). Reovirus serotypes elicit distinctive patterns of recall immunity in humans. J. Virol. 82:7515-7523. PMID: 18508904
  24. Coombs, K.M.(2008). Reoviridae: Molecular biology. In: Encyclopedia of Virology, 3rd Edition. (Mahy, B., & vanRegenmortel, M.H.V., Eds.), Vol. 4, pp. 390-399, Elsevier, Oxford, UK. ISBN: 978-0-12-374410-4
  25. Coombs, K.M., A. Berard, W. Xu, O. Krokhin, X. Meng, J.P. Cortens, D. Kobasa, J. Wilkins, and E.G. Brown (2010). Quantitative proteomic analyses of influenza virus-infected cultured human lung cells. J. Virol. 84:10888-10906. (Spotlight article). PMID: 20702633
  26. Coombs, K.M.(2011).  Reoviruses. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences.  Macmillan, London, UK. Online; DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001084.pub3
  27. Coombs, K.M.(2011). Quantitative proteomics of complex mixtures. Exp. Rev. Proteomics 8:659-677. PMID: 21999835
  28. Coombs, K.M.(2011). Viral growth from tissue culture. In: Comprehensive Biotechnology. 2nd Edition (Moo-Young, M. Ed.), Volume 1, pp. 383-393. Elsevier. ISBN: 978-0-08-088504-9
Coombs Lab members, Fall of 2011
Standing left to right: Naz, Behzad, Anh
Kneeling: Furgan, Alysa,  Alicia, Neil, Kola, Shahid

Laboratory Members:

Alicia, Berard (Co-supervise with A. Severini) Graduate Student a_palfi7@hotmail.com
Alysa Almojuela   Undergrad Honours alysaalmojuela@gmail.com
Andrea Kroeker (Co-supervise with A. Halayko) Graduate Student grapefruits14@gmail.com
Anh Tran   Graduate Student tranat@shaw.ca
Ayman Halwany   Gradute Student Ay-mancan@hotmail.com
Behzad Yeganeh (Co-supervie with A. Halayko) Post-doctoral fellow behyeganeh@gmail.com
Furgan Rajput   UnderGraduate Honors fbrajput@gmailcom
Kolawole Opanubi   Graduate Student kolawole2003@hotmail.com
Md. Niaz Rahim   Graduate Student niaz_mb@yahoo.com
Md. Shahiduzzaman   Post-doctoral fellow szamanpara@yahoo.com
Neil Salter   Technician umsalten@cc.umanitoba.ca
Saeedah Al-Mutairi   Graduate Student sma0085@hotmail.com