Erica (Hutfless) Cain, Ph.D.


Education: Bachelor of Science in microbiology (May 2007)

Doctor of Philosophy in microbiology from Kansas State University

McNair Project: In vivo Characterization of a Baculovirus Lacking a Functional Fibroblast Growth Factor Homolog (2006)

Mentor: Lorena Passarelli, Ph.D.

Baculoviruses are large double stranded DNA viruses and the nucleopolyhedroviruses; the best-characterized baculoviruses mainly infect larvae of Lepidoptera. The genomes of all baculoviruses of Lepidoptera sequenced to date encode for fibroblast growth factor (fgf) homologs.

A mutant of Autographa californica M nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) lacking fgf was characterized in Trichoplusia ni. Our results showed that in neonates, the fgf deficient virus took 10 hours longer to kill its hosts compared to wild-type, while fifth instar larvae, infected via intrahemocoelic injections had no significant differences.

These initial findings support the hypothesis that fgf may aide in the spread of baculovirus systemically. Additional studies of these and more insects will be conducted to have a more complete picture of the effects of FGF on pathogenesis.