Dr Juan Fontana

Dr Juan Fontana


Juan Fontana has over 13 years of experience in structural virology and electron microscopy (EM). During his PhD (CNB-CSIC, Madrid, Spain), he characterised the replication complexes of Bunyamwera and Rubella viruses. This work allowed him to elucidate the mechanisms by which viral macromolecular complexes interact with cellular components to create the architectures of viral factories and to propose novel working models for each replication complex. As a post-doc (LSBR, NIH, Maryland, USA), he worked on Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) & Influenza entry and on HIV & HSV morphogenesis. These projects included, 1) Elucidating the mechanism of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) neutralization by antibodies directed at the fusion domains of HSV’s fusion protein. 2) Unraveling structural intermediates of Influenza Virus fusion protein and M1 matrix protein prior to viral fusion. 3) Describing the two-step fusion process of the retrovirus Avian Sarcoma/Leukosis, in which receptor binding necessarily precedes low-pH activation of the fusion protein. 4) Studying the effects of several drugs and mutations that affect HIV maturation, an essential process for viral infectivity that involves proteolysis of precursor proteins by the viral protease and assembly of a conical core. Overall these projects gave Juan an in-depth knowledge of cell culture, manipulation of viruses, fluorescence & confocal microscopy, and cellular EM; and an expert knowledge of cryo-EM, including sample preparation, data acquisition, high-resolution single-particle reconstruction & atomic modeling and cryo-electron tomography & subtomogram averaging. 

In 2016 Juan started his independent laboratory as a University Academic Fellow at the University of Leeds, and he became an Associate Professor in 2021. His lab uses cryo-EM, combined with other structural approaches, to characterise macromolecular assemblies, and viruses that are a current public health risk, like HIV, Influenza, herpesviruses and bunyaviruses.

Research interests

Current major projects include:

  • Intermediate conformations of Influenza Virus fusion protein
  • Pre-fusion conformation of Herpes Simplex Virus fusion protein
  • Herpesvirus assembly
  • Influenza vRNP transport from the nucleus to the assembly site
  • Role of K+ in bunyavirus and influenza virus entry
  • Structure of specialised ribosomes
  • Ultrastructure of hyaluronan-protein complexes within the extracellular matrix
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Molecular Biology

Professional memberships

  • Astbury Centre
  • Microbiology Society

Research groups and institutes

  • Structural Biology
  • Microbiology

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>