Michelle Cilia’s primary appointment is as a molecular biologist in the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health, which is the USDA-ARS laboratory on the Cornell University campus. As a USDA-ARS research scientist, her research is advancing the understanding of vector-virus-plant relationships in agricultural systems at the molecular, cellular, organismal and ecological levels. Michelle is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University and on the summer course faculty at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where she teaches an NIH-funded course in state-of-the-art proteomics technologies.
Michelle recently established an active vector biology research group within the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Her group has a highly interdisciplinary focus where students can learn a wide variety of skills and techniques ranging from plant, vector, and virus molecular biology and genetics, live-cell imaging, plant cell culture and transgenic technologies, biochemical labeling techniques, protein interaction identification, and applications of mass spectrometry. The emphasis of Michelle’s research program is to use a combination of molecular, genetic, and proteomics approaches to understand how insects transmit plant viruses and to discover how viruses manipulate host plants to ensure replication and transmission. A second area of research is in the development of new pest management tools to enhance cultural control and to provide new management strategies of virus diseases in plants.
There is no cure for plant viruses so prevention of insect transmission and infection are key areas of research. Plant viral genomes encode only a handful of proteins, and it is clear that highly tuned virus-host and virus-vector protein interactions ultimately give rise to the stealthy nature of these viruses. Severe knowledge gaps exist in the biophysical mechanisms that vector-borne viruses employ to be transmitted, a stunning fact in light of the devastating impact vector-borne viruses have in food security and public health. The long-term goal of Michelle’s research is to create innovative virus-vector management solutions that could have a disproportionate and transformative impact in resource-poor, food-insecure nations. To achieve this goal, Michelle collaborates on research activities with colleagues at a number of research institutions in the US and abroad.
A major outreach focus of the Cilia lab is providing undergraduate research experiences. Undergraduate students interested in gaining hands on, meaningful research training in the areas of molecular biology, chemical biology, and proteomics are encouraged to contact us. Students who aspire to pursue MS and PhD programs are strongly encouraged to inquire about our exciting opportunities.
Dr. Cilia’s USDA webpage:
CSHL Proteomics Course information:
Dr. Cilia’s research featured in the Cornell Chronicle:
Cilia M, Peter K, Bereman M, Howe K, Fish T, Smith D, Gildow F, MacCoss MJ, Thannhauser T, and Gray S (2012) Discovery and targeted LC-MS/MS of purified polerovirus reveals differences in the virus-host interactome associated with altered aphid transmission. PLoS One, Accepted with minor revisions.
Chavez JD*, Cilia M*, Weisbrod CR, Ju HJ, Eng JK, Gray SM, and Bruce JE (2012) Cross-linking measurements of the Potato leafroll virus reveal protein interaction topologies required for virion stability, aphid transmission, and virus-plant interactions. J. Proteome Res. 11: 2968-2981. *Co-senior authors.
Cilia, M, Bereman, M, Fish, T, MacCoss, M, and Gray, S. (2012) Homopteran vector biomarkers for circulative plant virus transmission are expressed in multiple aphid species and the whitefly, Bemisia tabaci. Journal of Integrative Agricultural, Special Issue: The whitefly Bemisia tabaci species complex and begomoviruses, 11(2): 249-262.
Cilia, M, Howe, K, Fish, T, Smith, D, Mahoney, J, Tamborindeguy, C, Burd, J, Thannhauser, T and Gray, S. (2011) Biomarker discovery from the top down: protein biomarkers for efficient virus transmission by insects (Homoptera: Aphididae) discovered by coupling genetics and 2-D DIGE, Proteomics, 11:2440-58 [featured on issue cover].
Cilia, M, Tamborindeguy, C, Fish, T, Howe, K, Thannhauser, T and Gray, S. (2011) Genetics Coupled to Quantitative Intact Proteomics Links Heritable Aphid and Endosymbiont Protein Expression to Circulative Polerovirus Transmission. J. Virology 85: 2148-2166 [featured on issue cover]
Cilia, M, Tamborindeguy, C, Rolland, M, Howe, K, Thannhauser, T. and Gray, S. (2011) Tangible benefits of the pea aphid genome sequencing and annotation for aphid proteomics: enhancements in protein identification and data validation for homology-based proteomics. J. Insect Physiology, 57: 179-190.
Cilia, M, Fish, T, Yang, X, McLaughlin, M, Thannhauser, TW and Gray, S (2009) A comparison of protein extraction methods suitable for gel-based proteomic studies of aphid proteins. J Biomol Tech 20: 201-15.
Benitez-Alfonso, Y, Cilia, M, San Roman, A, Thomas, C, Maule, A, Hearn, S and Jackson, D (2009) Control of Arabidopsis meristem development by thioredoxin-dependent regulation of intercellular transport. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106: 3615-20.
Cilia, M (2009) Towards sustaining women through critical transition points in scientific careers: a workshop summary. J Biomol Techniques 19:353-55.
Cilia, ML and Jackson, D (2004) Plasmodesmata form and function. Curr Opin Cell Biol 16: 500-6.
Cilia, M, Cantrill, L and van Bel, A. (2002) Plasmodesmata 2001: On safari through the symplast. The Plant Cell 14: 7-10.
Kim, JY, Yuan, Z, Cilia, M, Khalfan-Jagani, Z and Jackson, D (2002) Intercellular trafficking of a KNOTTED1 green fluorescent protein fusion in the leaf and shoot meristem of Arabidopsis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 99: 4103-8.
January 2012: David Igwe is presenting our NSF-BREAD research at the 2013 International Plant Virus Epidemiology Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania.
August 2012: The Cilia lab welcomes our first postdoctoral associate, Dr. Stacy DeBlasio. Dr. DeBlasio will be using proteomics and molecular virology to characterize the protein interactions that facilitate circulative virus transmission in plants and insects.
November 2012: Drs Cilia and DeBlasio welcome the arrival of our Thermo Fisher TSQ Vantage Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer!
January 2013: Dr. Cilia accepted a permanent, Category 1 Research Scientist position in the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit, in Ithaca, NY.
Gray Lab: https://virology.cornell.edu/faculty%20pages/faculty-gray.htm
Thannhauser Lab: http://www.ars.usda.gov/PandP/docs.htm?docid=9634