Monika Gulia-Nuss: Developing an anti-tick vaccine

Monika Gulia-Nuss

Title

Identifying concealed tick midgut antigens for anti-tick vaccine development

Mentor

Monika Gulia-Nuss

Department

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Biosketch

Gulia-Nuss, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She teaches upper-level Molecular Biology (BCH405/605) and Ethics and Professionalism in Biotechnology (BIOT350) courses. She received her Ph.D. in mosquito-malaria parasite interactions from India. Since then she has been working on different aspects of mosquito biology and for last five years has also started working on the Lyme disease vector tick, Ixodes scapularis. Her laboratory employs cutting edge molecular biology and genomics techniques including Hi-C genome architecture and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. Since joining the University’s faculty in 2016, she has mentored approximately 25 undergraduates: three of them received awards for best presentations at the national conferences and others have been awarded scholarships through the University (the Nevada Undergraduate Research Award, INBRE, NSF-EPSCoR).

Project overview

Tick-borne diseases are a major human health problem in the United States and throughout the world. Lyme disease, caused by bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, and transmitted by the black-legged ticks is the most significant vector-borne disease in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 400,000 new cases of Lyme disease annually. The recent cases of new tick-borne viruses further intensify the need for tick control. Most tick control methods rely on chemical insecticide; however, ticks are developing resistance to these chemicals. Understanding tick biology in order to find novel targets for control are needed. My research program focuses on different biochemical and signaling pathways to identify genes that can lead to novel acaricides specific to ticks and new gene candidates for the tick-based vaccine. Through omics approaches (transcriptome, proteome, and methylome), we have identified hundreds of candidate antigens that could lead to tick control by disrupting feeding or other biological functions. Using RNA interference (RNAi) we have further narrowed down the list to 20 candidates. In this project, we will determine the antigenicity of these candidate antigens and will evaluate their potential for anti-tick vaccine.