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Division of Biology

A. Lorena Passarelli, Professor


Associate Director for Student Development

Contact information

269 Chalmers Hall
(785) 532-3195 


Ph.D. 1993, The University of Georgia. Genetics.

Area(s) of Specialization

Molecular biology of baculoviruses; Gene regulation and viral pathogenesis

Research Focus

Research in my laboratory is focused on studying the molecular biology and pathogenesis of two different groups of viruses, baculoviruses, large DNA-containing viruses that replicate in insects, and mosquito-vectored viruses. In the recent past, my laboratory has been investigating how viruses establish systemic infections. This topic stems from a long standing question of how pathogens gain access from the insect midgut to other organs in the hemocoel, bypassing non-cellular barriers and host defenses. Although insect pathogens and insect-vectored pathogens may have devised different methods to escape from the midgut and infect other tissues, they are faced with the same barriers. More specifically, we are studying a signaling mechanism that utilizes a baculovirus encoded fibroblast growth factor (vFGF) and the activation of host genes that together aid in midgut escape. FGFs are a large family of polypeptide growth factors widespread in multicellular organisms and key regulators in cell differentiation, cell proliferation, and cell motility. We have shown that vFGF facilitates midgut escape and accelerates host mortality. However, the specific mechanism of vFGF function during virus infection is not well defined. Similarly, we are characterizing the mosquito genes that are involved in mosquito-vectored virus midgut escape and replication. Our work promises to define a long sought question on virus spread in invertebrates. 

Selected Publications

Dong, S., J. Lin, N. L. Held, R. J. Clem, A. L. Passarelli, and A. W. E. Franz. 2015. Heritable CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. PLoS ONE 10: e0122353. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122353.

Ishimwe, E., J. J. Hodgson, A. L. Passarelli. 2015. Expression of the Cydia pomonella granulovirus matrix metalloprotease enhances Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus virulence and can partially substitute for viral cathepsin. Virology 481:166-178.

Ishimwe, E., J. J. Hodgson, R. J. Clem, and A. L. Passarelli. Reaching the melting point: 2015. Degradative enzymes and protease inhibitors involved in baculovirus infection and dissemination. Virology 479-480:637-649.

Clem, S. A., W. Wu, and A. L. Passarelli. 2014. The Trichoplusia ni single nucleopolyhedrovirus tn79 gene encodes a functional sulfhydryl oxidase enzyme that is able to support the replication of Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus lacking the sulfhydryl oxidase ac92 gene. Virology 460-461:207-216.

Passarelli AL, Means JC.  2014.  Intrahaemocoelic infection of Trichoplusia ni with the baculovirus Autographa californica M nucleopolyhedrovirus does not induce tracheal cell basal lamina remodeling. J. Gen. Virol. 95:719-723.

Franz AW, Clem RJ, Passarelli AL. 2014. Novel Genetic and Molecular Tools for the Investigation and Control of Dengue Virus Transmission by Mosquitoes. Curr. Trop. Med. Rep. 1:21-31.

Means JC, Passarelli AL. 2010. Viral fibroblast growth factor, matrix metalloproteases, and caspases are associated with enhancing systemic infection by baculoviruses. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 107:9825-9830. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913582107.

View the complete publication list in NCBI