Michelle Heck

Assistant Professor, USDA Scientist
Michelle Heck
mlc68@cornell.edu
Office/Lab: USDA@BTI 123/110
Phone: 607-254-5453
Office/Lab: USDA@BTI 123/110
Email: mlc68@cornell.edu
Office Phone: 607-254-5453
Lab Phone: 607-254-5262
Affiliations: Research Molecular Biologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service / Section of Plant Pathology & Plant- Microbe Biology / School of Integrative Plant Science / Cornell University
Research Overview

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.

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Heck lab 2017

The Heck lab is a leader in host-vector-pathogen interaction research, vector biology methods development, teaching and scientific communication. We are mission-driven, first and foremost. At the heart of our success is our ability to integrate information and experiments across disciplines and to apply new technologies to solve problems, old and new. We pride ourselves on fostering a supportive work environment and our tenacious and rigorous approach to the pursuit of science. Heck lab members use their expertise and love of problem solving to have a measurable impact in agriculture, biological research and human-scale challenges, while training the next generation of scientists. We strive to create a training and research environment that fosters trust and honesty to benefit our own scientific careers, members of the scientific community – including our local scientific community of administrative staff, students, and collaborators – the agricultural community, U.S. tax payers, the environment and all of mankind.

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.

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.

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.

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

January 2017, Dr. Heck was selected to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which recognizes outstanding, government-funded scientists who show great potential for becoming leaders in their field and for expanding the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

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.

Diaphorina citri Nymphs Are Resistant to Morphological Changes Induced by “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” in Midgut Epithelial Cells
2018.
Mann, M., Fattah-Hosseini, S., Ammar, E. D., Stange, R., Warrick, E., Sturgeon, K., Shatters, R., He…
Infection and Immunity.
86
:
A Stem-Loop Structure in Potato Leafroll Virus Open Reading Frame 5 (ORF5) Is Essential for Readthrough Translation of the Coat Protein ORF Stop Codon 700 Bases Upstream
2018.
Xu, Y., Ju, H. J., DeBlasio, S., Carino, E. J., Johnson, R., MacCoss, M., Heck, Michelle L., Miller,…
Journal of Virology.
92
:
The quest for a non-vector psyllid: Natural variation in acquisition and transmission of the huanglongbing pathogen ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ by Asian citrus psyllid isofemale lines
2018.
Ammar, E. D., Hall, D. G., Hosseinzadeh, S., Heck, Michelle L.
PLOS One.
13
:
e0195804–e0195804
Insect Transmission of Plant Pathogens: a Systems Biology Perspective
2018.
Heck, Michelle L.
mSystems.
3
:
e00168-17–e00168-17
Disruption of chloroplast function through downregulation of phytoene desaturase enhances the systemic accumulation of an aphid-borne, phloem-restricted virus
2018.
DeBlasio, S. L., Rebelo, A. R., Parks, K., Gray, S., Heck, Michelle L.
Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.
:
Leveraging ‘omics technologies to develop new initiatives for controlling vector-borne plant pathogens
2017.
Deblasio, S., Heck, Michelle L.
PHYTOPATHOLOGY.
107
:
6–6
Evaluation of a Bead-Free Coimmunoprecipitation Technique for Identification of Virus-Host Protein Interactions Using High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry
2017.
DeBlasio, S. L., Bereman, M. S., Mahoney, J., Thannhauser, T. W., Gray, S. M., MacCoss, M. J., Heck,…
Journal of Biomolecular Techniques : JBT.
28
:
111–121
Insights in luteovirid structural biology guided by chemical cross-linking and high resolution mass spectrometry
2017.
Alexander, M. M., Mohr, J. P., DeBlasio, S. L., Chavez, J. D., Ziegler-Graff, V., Brault, V., Bruce,…
Virus Research.
241
:
42–52
Protein interaction networks at the host–microbe interface in Diaphorina citri , the insect vector of the citrus greening pathogen
2017.
Ramsey, J. S., Chavez, J. D., Johnson, R., Hosseinzadeh, S., Mahoney, J. E., Mohr, J. P., Robison, F…
Royal Society Open Science.
4
:
160545–160545
Comparative proteomics to identify critical proteins for transmission of Candidatus Liberibacter asiacticus by the Asian citrus psyllid
2017.
Kruse, A., Saha, S., Johnson, R., Fattahalhosseini, S., Warwick, E., Sturgeon, K., MacCoss, M., Shat…
PHYTOPATHOLOGY.
107
:
9–9
Combining ‘omics and microscopy to visualize interactions between the Asian citrus psyllid vector and the Huanglongbing pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus in the insect gut
2017.
Kruse, A., Fattah-Hosseini, S., Saha, S., Johnson, R., Warwick, E. R., Sturgeon, K., Mueller, Lukas …
PLOS One.
12
:
e0179531–e0179531
Host protein interaction network associated with the non- incorporated form of the potato leafroll virus RTP identified using mass spectrometry
2017.
Deblasio, S. L., Rebelo, A. R., Johnson, R., Gray, S., MacCoss, M., Heck, Michelle L.
PHYTOPATHOLOGY.
107
:
24–24
Improved annotation of the insect vector of citrus greening disease: biocuration by a diverse genomics community
2017.
Saha, S., Hosmani, P. S., Villalobos-Ayala, K., Miller, S., Shippy, T., Flores, M., Rosendale, A., C…
Database : the journal of biological databases and curation.
2017
:
Structural biology of viruses in the luteoviridae
2017.
Alexander, M., Mohr, J., Chavez, J., DeBlasio, S., Ziegler-Graff, V., Brault, V., Bruce, J., Heck, M…
PHYTOPATHOLOGY.
107
:
5–5
Potato leafroll virus alters small RNA production in its aphid vector during plant viral infection to promote virus dispersal
2017.
Wilson, J., Pinheiro, P., Xu, Y., Zheng, Y., Rebelo, A. R., Fattahalhosseini, S., Kruse, A., Dos Sil…
PHYTOPATHOLOGY.
107
:
206–207
Host Plants Indirectly Influence Plant Virus Transmission by Altering Gut Cysteine Protease Activity of Aphid Vectors
2017.
Pinheiro, P. V., Ghanim, M., Alexander, M., Rebelo, A. R., Santos, R. S., Orsburn, B. C., Gray, S., …
Mol Cell Proteomics.
16
:
S230–S243
Relative susceptibility of Musa genotypes to banana bunchy top disease in Cameroon and implication for disease management
2017.
Ngatat, S., Hanna, R., Kumar, P. L., Gray, S. M., Heck, Michelle L., Ghogomu, R. T., Fontem, D. A.
Crop Protection.
101
:
116–122
The draft genome of whitefly Bemisia tabaci MEAM1, a global crop pest, provides novel insights into virus transmission, host 5 adaptation, and insecticide resistance
2016.
Chen, W., Hasegawa, D. K., Kaur, N., Kliot, A., Pinheiro, P. V., Luan, J., Stensmyr, M. C., Zheng, Y…
BMC Biology.
14
:
A General Method for Targeted Quantitative Cross-Linking Mass Spectrometry
2016.
Chavez, J. D., Eng, J. K., Schweppe, D. K., Heck, Michelle L., Rivera, K., Zhong, X., Wu, X., Allen,…
PLOS One.
11
:
e0167547–e0167547
Model System-Guided Protein Interaction Mapping for Virus Isolated from Phloem Tissue
2016.
Deblasio, S. L., Johnson, R. S., Maccoss, M. J., Gray, S. M., Heck, Michelle L.
Journal of Proteome Research.
15
:
4601–4611

Contact:

Boyce Thompson Institute
533 Tower Rd.
Ithaca, NY 14853
607.254.1234
contact@btiscience.org