Neal Dittmer, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor

Image of Neal Dittmer, Ph.D.

Contact information

Office: 61 Chalmers Hall
Phone: 785-532-6922
Fax: 785-532-7278
Lab website


B.S. 1988, Michigan State University
Ph.D. 2000, Michigan State University

Areas of specialty

  • Insect biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Insect cuticle synthesis and sclerotization
  • Insect multicopper oxidases

I'm interested in exploring how insects make their cuticle (exoskeleton). My main focus is on the proteins present in the cuticle and how they differ between cuticle that is hard versus cuticle that is flexible. I am also interested on how these cuticular proteins may be cross-linked together to help stabilize the cuticle (a process known as sclerotization). One important enzyme in this process is laccase, a member of the multicopper oxidase (MCO) family. Many insects have multiple MCO genes and their physiological functions are unknown but likely extend beyond sclerotization. Understanding how the insect cuticle is made may lead to the development of novel pest control strategies if this process can be disrupted. Additionally, the diverse mechanical properties of the cuticle serve as a model for the creation of biomimetic materials with applications in the medical and materials industries.

Selected publications

Dittmer NT, Tetreau G, Cao X, Jiang H, Wang P, Kanost MR. (2015) Annotation and expression analysis of cuticular proteins from the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 62, 100-13.

Peng, Z., Dittmer, N.T., Lang, M., Brummett, L.M., Braun, C.L., Davis, L.C., Kanost, M.R., and Gorman, M.J. (2015) Multicopper oxidase-1 orthologs from diverse insect species have ascorbate oxidase activity. Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 59, 58-71.

Dittmer NT, Hiromasa Y, Tocmich JM, Lu N, Beeman RW, Kramer KJ, and Kanost MR (2012) Proteomic and transcriptomic analyses of rigid and membranous cuticle and epidermis from the elytra and hindwings of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. J. Proteome Res. 11, 269-275.

Dittmer NT, and Kanost MR (2010) Insect multicopper oxidases: diversity, properties, and physiological roles. Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 40, 179-188.

Suderman RJ, Dittmer NT, Kramer KJ, and Kanost MR (2010) Model reactions for insect cuticle sclerotization: participation of amino groups in the cross-linking of Manduca sexta cuticle protein MsCP36. Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 40, 252-258.

Dittmer NT, Gorman MJ, and Kanost MR (2009) Characterization of endogenous and recombinant forms of laccase-2, a multicopper oxidase from the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta . Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 39, 596-606.

Gorman MJ, Dittmer NT, Marshall JL, and Kanost MR (2008) Characterization of the multicopper oxidase gene family in Anopheles gambiae . Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 38, 817-824.

Suderman RJ, Dittmer NT, Kanost MR, and Kramer KJ (2006) Model reactions for insect cuticle sclerotization: Cross-linking of recombinant cuticular proteins upon their laccase-catalyzed oxidative conjugation with catechols. Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 36, 353-365. Erratum 36, 610-611.

Dittmer NT, Suderman RJ, Jiang H, Zhu Y-C, Gorman MJ, Kramer KJ, and Kanost MR (2004) Characterization of cDNAs encoding putative laccase-like multicopper oxidases and developmental expression in the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, and the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae . Insect Biochem. Molec. Biol. 34, 29-41.

Complete Publications List