Dr. Tonya Colpitts:
Assistant professor

Postdoctoral Training:
Yale University School of Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases

Ph.D. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
B.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Contact Information:
Phone: (803) 216-3421
Office: Bldg 2, B4
Lab: Bldg 2, B3 & B6


Research Focus:

I am a molecular virologist primarily interested in flavivirus pathogenesis and cellular interactions during infection. Currently, my research is focused on the impact of dengue virus infection on mosquito cell environments, the impact of human host blood factors on mosquito dengue virus infection, the role of skin cells in initial dengue infection, antibody-dependent enhancement in primary cells and the development of a dengue virus transmission-blocking vaccine.

Dengue virus causes serious human disease and mortality worldwide. Infection results in a severe febrile illness, occasionally leading to lethal hemorrhagic fever, especially in children. In recent years, there has been increased epidemic activity and geographic expansion of dengue infection along with its mosquito vector, and it is considered a serious emerging global health problem. The disease has an enormous impact on the health and economies of tropical and subtropical regions, with dengue infections occurring in Asia, the Americas, Africa, Pacific and Mediterranean regions. While most cases in the United States occur in travelers returning from endemic areas, there have been recent outbreaks in Texas and Florida where transmission occurred on American soil. As climate change continues, the range of Aedes, the mosquito vectors of dengue virus, is expected to expand northwards, placing an increased proportion of the US public at risk for disease.

There are no vaccines or specific therapeutic agents approved for dengue virus infection. The development of a safe and effective vaccine has been hindered by antibody-dependent enhancement, in which exposure to and development of antibodies against one dengue serotype can lead to severe hemorrhagic fever upon infection with a different serotype. One project in my lab is to examine the causes and effects of antibody-dependent enhancement using primary human monocytes and macrophages. Dengue is an arbovirus transmitted to humans by mosquito vectors. An attractive complement to traditional vaccine design is to induce an immune response in the vertebrate host (infected or non-infected) that will block virus infection of mosquito transmission vectors. These types of vaccine strategies are termed transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs). Inhibiting the ability of mosquitoes to acquire a dengue virus infection would eliminate an important step in the infection cycle and represent a novel, highly effective method to disrupt the infected patient to mosquito transmission step and limit the size of dengue outbreaks. We are currently working on the development of TBVs using Aedes mosquito proteins in our lab.

Recent Publications

  • Londono-Renteria B, Grippin C, Cardenas JC, Troupin A, Colpitts TM. 2016. Human C5a Protein Participates in the Mosquito Immune Response Against Dengue Virus. J Med Entomol.
  • Londono-Renteria B, Troupin A, Conway MJ, Vesely D, Ledizet M, Roundy CM, Cloherty E, Jameson S, Vanlandingham D, Higgs S, Fikrig E, Colpitts TM. 2015. Dengue Virus Infection of Aedes aegypti Requires a Putative Cysteine Rich Venom Protein. PLoS Pathog 11:e1005202.
  • Londono-Renteria B, Drame PM, Weitzel T, Rosas R, Gripping C, Cardenas JC, Alvares M, Wesson DM, Poinsignon A, Remoue F, Colpitts TM. 2015. An. gambiae gSG6-P1 evaluation as a proxy for human-vector contact in the Americas: a pilot study. Parasit Vectors 8:533.
  • Londono-Renteria B, Patel JC, Vaughn M, Funkhauser S, Ponnusamy L, Grippin C, Jameson SB, Apperson C, Mores CN, Wesson DM, Colpitts TM, Meshnick SR. 2015. Long-Lasting Permethrin-Impregnated Clothing Protects Against Mosquito Bites in Outdoor Workers. Am J Trop Med Hyg 93:869-874.
  • Conway MJ, Watson AM, Colpitts TM, Dragovic SM, Li Z, Wang P, Feitosa F, Shepherd DT, Ryman KD, Klimstra WB, Anderson JF, Fikrig E. 2014. Mosquito saliva serine protease enhances dissemination of dengue virus into the mammalian host. J Virol 88:164-175.
  • Colpitts TM, Conway MJ, Montgomery RR, Fikrig E. 2012. West Nile Virus: biology, transmission, and human infection. Clin Microbiol Rev 25:635-648.
  • da Silva Voorham JM, Rodenhuis-Zybert IA, Ayala Nunez NV, Colpitts TM, van der Ende-Metselaar H, Fikrig E, Diamond MS, Wilschut J, Smit JM. 2012. Antibodies against the envelope glycoprotein promote infectivity of immature dengue virus serotype 2. PLoS One 7:e29957.
  • Colpitts TM, Rodenhuis-Zybert I, Moesker B, Wang P, Fikrig E, Smit JM. 2011. prM-antibody renders immature West Nile virus infectious in vivo. The Journal of general virology 92:2281-2285.
  • Sukumaran B, Mastronunzio JE, Narasimhan S, Fankhauser S, Uchil PD, Levy R, Graham M, Colpitts TM, Lesser CF, Fikrig E. 2011. Anaplasma phagocytophilum AptA modulates Erk1/2 signalling. Cell Microbiol 13:47-61.
  • Colpitts TM, Cox J, Vanlandingham DL, Feitosa FM, Cheng G, Kurscheid S, Wang P, Krishnan MN, Higgs S, Fikrig E. 2011. Alterations in the Aedes aegypti transcriptome during infection with West Nile, dengue and yellow fever viruses. PLoS Pathog 7:e1002189.
  • Colpitts TM, Cox J, Nguyen A, Feitosa F, Krishnan MN, Fikrig E. 2011. Use of a tandem affinity purification assay to detect interactions between West Nile and dengue viral proteins and proteins of the mosquito vector. Virology 417:179-187.
  • Cheng G, Liu L, Wang P, Zhang Y, Zhao YO, Colpitts TM, Feitosa F, Anderson JF, Fikrig E. 2011. An in vivo transfection approach elucidates a role for Aedes aegypti thioester-containing proteins in flaviviral infection. PloS one 6:e22786.