Monika Gulia-Nuss, PhD
Assistant Professor, Howard Medical Sciences
Department of Biochemistry and molecular Biology
University of Nevada
Generating Transgenic Ticks for Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases Management
Monika Gulia-Nuss is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Gulia-Nuss’s research focuses on understanding the basic biology of ticks in order to identify novel targets for tick control. Her long-term goal is to develop novel strategies to control ticks and tick-borne disease transmission. To this end, she is generating first-ever transgenic ticks using CRISPR-Cas gene-editing system and employing other cutting-edge genomic techniques such as Hi C based genome scaffolding for better assembly and annotation of the tick genome.
Her current work focuses on understanding the role of insulin signaling in tick-pathogen interactions and differences in chemoreception circuit in different Ixodes species. Understanding tick- pathogen interactions and genes involved in host seeking are vital to development of novel disease transmission control strategies. She has also initiated research to understand the epigenetic changes in patients due to Lyme Borrelia infection and will potentially be able to identify novel methylation markers soon after the infection with Lyme bacteria.
Conference Lecture Summary
The sequencing and annotation of Ixodes scapularis genome opened up new avenues for functional characterization of tick genes and tick-pathogen interaction research. However, the large genome size posed its own challenges for assembly and resulted in a fragmented genome. My laboratory has now reassembled the genome using Hi C genome scaffolding method. This allows us to reannotate the genome and correct existing gene models. We are now applying the gene editing technique to dissect out the gene functions in order to identify the genes that are important for tick development, survival, or immune response to the pathogens. We expect that gene-editing in ticks will provide new opportunities for identification of targets for vaccine for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. Additionally, it will also lead to acaricide candidates identification. I will be presenting this work at the meeting