Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Hameeda Sultana

Committee Member

Emilia Oleszak

Committee Member

Deborah Waller


Arthropod-borne diseases are one of the major concerns throughout the world. Ixodes scapularis (hard tick) is one of the major vectors that is involved in arthropod-borne disease transmission. Langat virus (LGTV) is a model pathogen that is very similar to other medically important flaviviruses such as Tick-Borne Encephalitis virus (TBEV) and Powassan virus (POWV). Sphingomyelinase-like protein (IsSMase, a Sphingomyelinase D or SMase D, a venomous protein ortholog of spiders) is an enzyme present in ticks that helps to catalyze the hydrolysis of the sphingomyelin (cell membrane lipid) into phosphocholine and ceramide. The objective of our study is to delineate the role of IsSMase in exosome biogenesis upon LGTV infection in ticks. Our previous study showed that LGTV-infection enhanced the production and release of exosomes to mediate the transmission of flavi-viral proteins and infectious RNA genomes from the arthropod to the vertebrate host. Understanding the mechanism(s) of arthropod-borne flavivirus transmission via exosome biogenesis is very important. My MS thesis project explored the detailed role of IsSMase in tickborne viral replication and pathogenesis and provided molecular insights of viral modulated survival strategies in ticks. Our data, in specific, suggests an important role for IsSMase in regulating viral replication in ticks, and in general a mechanism for anti-viral pathways in medically important vectors.


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