Dr. James E. Maruniak
- Insect virology; host range, virulence, molecular biology
- Baculovirus expression vectors
- Arbovirus epidemiology
- Mosquito microsatellites
- Genetic variation in fungal entomopathogens
- Genetic variation in microsporidia
- The surveillance study of virus transmitted by mosquitoes collected in different locations of Alachua County, resulted in the detection of several samples infected with a virus from the Bunyaviridae family: the Tensaw virus (TSV) at the University of Florida. One of the isolates has been completely sequenced together with an isolate obtained from the CDC. Further study of the TSV will be done with the following approaches. Characterization of potential TSV hosts/reservoirs will be done by analyzing the blood meals of engorged mosquitoes collected at the same collection sites and at a similar time frame from the mosquitoes carrying the Tensaw virus. Investigation of the TSV pathogenesis will be performed by using RNA interference methodology. RNA silencing targeting TSV sequences of the non structural proteins from the small (NSs) and medium (NSm) genome segments of TSV will be tested using short 22-23 bp dsRNA fragments that induce RNA degradation via silencing complex.
- The salivary gland hypertrophy virus genome has been completely sequenced and several transcripts were confirmed from the putative open reading frames. The function and importance of some of those genes will be further analyzed by expressing the protein under the baculovirus expression system and by producing transformed insect cell lines constitutively expressing the gene of interest.
- The research program on insect viruses includes diverse approaches from molecular biology to field application of viruses as biological pesticides.
- The study of host range and virulence of insect viruses is central to furthering the use of insect viruses as biological pesticides. Therefore, molecular techniques are used to determine and elucidate the function of genes involved in pathogenesis, virulence and host specificity of these viruses.
- Some of these baculoviruses have been tested in agricultural crops here in Florida with the cooperation of industry and university scientists.
- Insect cell cultures are used extensively to study and manipulate insect pathogenic viruses. Additionally, insect baculoviruses and insect cell cultures are being used as molecular expression systems to produce important proteins for medical, veterinary and agricultural purposes.
Associate Professor, Insect Virus Biotechnology