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Michelle Heck
 &emdash;  Professor / USDA Scientist

Michelle Heck
Office/Lab: USDA@BTI 123/104
  • Research Molecular Biologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Section of Plant Pathology & Plant- Microbe Biology
  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Cornell University


  • The Potato leafroll virus structural proteins manipulate overlapping, yet distinct protein interaction networks during infection 2015

    DeBlasio, S.L., Johnson, R., Sweeney, M.M., Karasev, A., Gray, S.A., MacCoss, M.J., and Cilia, M.
    Proteomics DOI: 10.1002,  pmic.201400594
    Full text...
  • Is there a role for symbiotic bacteria in plant virus transmission by insects? 2015

    Pinheiro, P., Kliot, A., Ghanim, M., and Cilia, M.
    Current Opinion in Insect Science 8,  1–10
    Full text...
  • Insights into the polerovirus-plant interactome revealed by co-immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry 2014

    DeBlasio, S.L., Johnson, R., Mahoney, J., Karasev, A., Gray, S., MacCoss, M.J., and Cilia, M.
    Mol. Plant Microbe Interact 0:ja
    Full text...
  • Circulative, “Nonpropagative” Virus Transmission: An orchestra of virus, insect and plant derived instruments 2014

    Gray, S.M., Cilia, M., and Ghanim, M.
    Adv. Virus Res. 89,  141-199
    Full text...
  • Infection of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci with Rickettsia spp. alters its interactions with Tomato yellow leaf curl virus 2014

    Kliot, A., Cilia, M., Corso, T., Czosnek, H., and Ghanim, M.
    J. Virol. 88(10),  5652-5660
    Full text...
  • Evidence for the biochemical basis of host virulence in the greenbug, Schizaphis graminum (Homoptera: Aphididae) 2014

    Pinheiro, P., Bereman, M.S., Burd, J., Pals, M., Armstrong, S., Howe, K.J., Thannhauser, T.W., MacCoss, M.J., Gray, S.M. and Cilia, M.
    J. Proteome Res. 13(4),  2094-2108
    Full text...
  • Genomic and proteomic analysis of Schizaphis graminum reveals cyclophilin proteins are involved in the transmission of Cereal yellow dwarf virus 2013

    Tamborindeguy, C., Bereman, M.S., DeBlasio, S., Igwe, D., Smith, D.M., White, F., MacCoss, M.J., Gray, S.M., and Cilia, M.
    PLoS ONE 8(8),  e71620
    Full text...
  • Discovery and targeted LC-MS/MS of purified polerovirus reveals differences in the virus-host interactome associated with altered aphid transmission 2012

    Cilia, M., Peter, K., Bereman, M., Howe, K., Fish, T., Smith, D., Gildow, F., MacCoss, M., Thannhauser, T., and Gray, S.M.
    PLoS ONE 7(10),  e48177
    Full text...
  • Tangible benefits of the pea aphid genome sequencing and annotation for aphid proteomics: enhancements in protein identification and data validation for homology-based proteomics.. J. Insect Physiol., 57, 179-190 2011

    Cilia, M., Tamborindeguy, C., Rolland, M., Howe, K., Thannhauser, T., and Gray, S.
    J. Insect Physiol. 57,  179-190
    Full text...
  • Genetics Coupled to Quantitative Intact Proteomics Links Heritable Aphid and Endosymbiont Protein Expression to Circulative Polerovirus Transmission. J. Virol., 85, 2148-2166. [featured on issue cover] 2010

    Cilia, M., Tamborindeguy, C., Fish, T., Howe, K., Thannhauser, T., and Gray, S.
    J. Virol. 85,  2148-2166 [featured on issue cover]
    Full text...
  • Cross-linking measurements of the Potato leafroll virus reveal protein interaction topologies required for virion stability, aphid transmission, and virus-plant interactions. J. Proteome Res., 11, 2968-2981. *Co-senior authors. 2012

    Chavez, J.D.*, Cilia, M.*, Weisbrod, C.R., Ju, H.J., Eng, J.K., Gray, S.M., and Bruce, J.E.
    J. Proteome Res. 11,  2968-2981. *Co-senior authors.
    Full text...
  • A comparison of protein extraction methods suitable for gel-based proteomic studies of aphid proteins. J. Biomol. Tech., 20, 201-215. 2009

    Cilia, M., Fish, T., Yang, X., McLaughlin, M., Thannhauser, T.W., and Gray, S.
    J. Biomol. Tech. 20,  201-215
    Full text...
  • Homopteran vector biomarkers for circulative plant virus transmission are expressed in multiple aphid species and the whitefly, Bemisia tabaci 2012

    Cilia, M., Bereman, M., Fish, T., MacCoss, M., and Gray, S.
    Journal of Integrative Agricultural Special Issue: The whitefly Bemisia tabaci species complex and begomoviruses, 11(2),  249-262
    Full text...
  • Control of Arabidopsis meristem development by thioredoxin-dependent regulation of intercellular transport 2009

    Benitez-Alfonso, Y., Cilia, M., San Roman, A., Thomas, C., Maule, A., Hearn, S., and Jackson, D.
    P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106,  3615-20
    Full text...
  • Towards sustaining women through critical transition points in scientific careers: a workshop summary 2009

    Cilia, M.
    J. Biomol. Tech. 19,  353-355
    Full text...
  • Plasmodesmata form and function 2004

    Cilia, M., and Jackson, D.
    Curr. Opin. Cell Biol. 16,  500-506
    Full text...
  • Plasmodesmata 2001: On safari through the symplast 2002

    Cilia, M., Cantrill, L., and van Bel, A.
    The Plant Cell 14,  7-10
    Full text...
  • Intercellular trafficking of a KNOTTED1 green fluorescent protein fusion in the leaf and shoot meristem of Arabidopsis. P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 99, 4103-4108 2002

    Kim, J.Y., Yuan, Z., Cilia, M., Khalfan-Jagani, Z., and Jackson, D.
    P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 99,  4103-4108
    Full text...
  • Biomarker discovery from the top down: protein biomarkers for efficient virus transmission by insects (Homoptera: Aphididae) discovered by coupling genetics and 2-D DIGE 2011

    Cilia, M., Howe, K., Fish, T., Smith, D., Mahoney, J., Tamborindeguy, C., Burd, J., Thannhauser, T., and S. Gray.
    Proteomics 11,  2440-2458
    Full text...
  • Evidence for lysine acetylation in the coat protein of a Polerovirus 2014

    Cilia, M., Johnson, R., Sweeney, M., MacCoss, M.J., and Gray S.M.
    J. Gen. Virol. vir.0.066514-0
    Full text...


In the News

Enabling Technologies

  • Nicotiana benthamiana

    [caption id="attachment_12158" align="alignright" width="385"] Click image to link to featured Nicotiana benthamiana publication >[/caption] Bioinformatics Tools BLAST tool VIGS Tool CRISPR-P Tool CCTop CRISPR tool Genome sequence Gene annotation Metabolic Pathways Proteomics Databases Genome Browser VIGS: genes to phenotypes database N. benthamiana Experimental Protocols and Resources Agroinfiltration - Agroinfiltration of Read more »

Research Overview


Heck Lab, February, 2015

USDA affiliation: Research Molecular Biologist, USDA-ARS Robert W. Holley Center michelle.cilia@ars.usda.gov

Dr. Michelle Heck leads an active vector biology research group within the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Dr. Heck has joint appointments at the Boyce Thompson Institute, the USDA ARS, and Cornell University.

Heck’s research program uses a combination of molecular, genetic, and proteomics approaches to understand how insects transmit plant pathogens and how pathogens manipulate host plants to ensure replication and transmission. A second area of research is the development of new pest management tools to enhance cultural control and to provide new management strategies for insect vector-borne diseases in plants.

There is no cure for plant viruses so prevention of insect transmission and infection are key areas of research. Viral genomes encode only a handful of proteins, and it is clear that highly tuned virus-host and virus-vector protein interactions ultimately give rise to the stealthy nature of these viruses. Severe knowledge gaps exist in the biophysical mechanisms that vector-borne viruses employ to be transmitted, a stunning fact in light of the devastating impact vector-borne viruses have in food security and public health. The long-term goal of Heck’s research is to create innovative virus-vector management solutions that could have a disproportionate and transformative impact in resource-poor, food-insecure nations. To achieve this goal, Heck collaborates on research activities with colleagues at a number of research institutions in the US and abroad.

Dr. Cilia and her graduate student David Igwe.

Dr. Heck and her graduate student David Igwe, from the IITA in Nigeria, scout for insects that transmit plant viruses.

Another pathosystem studied in the lab is citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing, which currently threatens the US citrus industry. Affected citrus tress produce bitter, green fruits and eventually die from the infection. The bacterium C. Liberibacter asiaticus is thought to be the causal agent of the disease and is spread from tree to tree by the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri. Heck’s group is working to develop an early detection method by identifying proteins generated by citrus trees soon after infection. They are also using Protein Interaction Reporter Technology, a chemical cross-linking mass spectrometry technology developed by collaborators in the Bruce Lab at the University of Washington, to study the protein interactions that regulate transmission by the insect vector.

Heck’s group has a highly interdisciplinary focus where students can learn a wide variety of skills and techniques ranging from plant, vector and virus molecular biology and genetics, live-cell imaging, plant cell culture and transgenic technologies, biochemical labeling techniques, protein interaction identification and applications of mass spectrometry. Professor Heck accepts graduate students from the Graduate fields of Entomology and Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. Dr.Heck participates as a mentor in the Cornell University Chemical Biology Interface Program. Funding is always fluid and interested students and postdocs should email Dr. Heck about available positions. A major outreach focus of the Heck lab is providing undergraduate research experiences. Undergraduate students interested in gaining hands on, meaningful research training in the areas of molecular biology, chemical biology, and proteomics are encouraged to contact us.

Dr. Heck’s USDA webpage: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Aboutus/docs.htm?docid=21274

Dr. Heck leads an NIH-funded, two-week intensive course on mass spectrometry-based proteomics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. CSHL Proteomics Course information can be found at: http://meetings.cshl.edu/courses/2015/c-proteo15.shtml

Dr. Heck was one of the organizer’s of the 2014 Hemipteran-Plant Interactions Symposium (HPIS), June 22-25, 2014, University of California, Riverside

Recent Awards

Jared Mohr, Cornell CAS ’16 chemistry major, received the 2015 Frank L. Howard Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the American Phytopathological Society (APS). The award is given to a single undergraduate each year to support research in plant pathology. The fellowship will fund Mohr’s work on early detection of Huanglongbing, which he will present this summer at the APS meeting in Pasadena, California.

Ph.D. candidate Patricia Valle Pinheiro received the 2015 Rawlins Endowment Award from the Cornell Department of Entomology. The prize will support her participation in the Arthropod Genomics Consortium meeting in Manhattan, Kansas in June. Patricia also received a USDA AFRI travel grant to attend the 2014 Entomology Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Stacy DeBlasio, a USDA ARS postdoctoral associate, won a travel award to attend the 2014 American Society of Plant Biologists meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Heck was named the USDA ARS Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Scientist of the Year in 2014 for her work in cutting edge vector biology. She was selected as one of the Schroth Faces of the Future Symposium Awardees, and traveled to the 2014 APS-CPS Joint Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 2014 symposium was entitled “Schroth Faces of the Future: Virology.” Dr. Heck presented her current work and philosophy and speculated on future directions.