Lucas Tirloni, Ph.D.

Lucas Tirloni, Ph.D.

Credit: NIAID
Chief, Tick-Pathogen Transmission Unit
Tenure-track Investigator

Major Areas of Research

  • Study the tick feeding site in order to get insights into tick-host-pathogen interaction at molecular and cellular level
  • Study how ticks evade and exploit host keratinocytes and its relevance to tick feeding and Borrelia burgdorferi transmission
  • Study the importance of tick saliva for blood feeding and pathogen transmission
  • Use and development of in vitro and in vivo systems to study the interactions between tick-host-pathogen


Dr. Tirloni was born and raised in Brazil. He received his Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology in 2015 from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. He received his postdoctoral training at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (2015-2016), Texas A&M University (2016-2018), and NIAID (2018-2020). In 2020, Dr. Tirloni became a tenure-track investigator in the Laboratory of Bacteriology.

Program Description

Human vector-borne diseases in the United States are primarily tick-borne. Tick-borne disease have rapidly become a serious and growing threat to public health. As blood feeding arthropods, ticks salivate while they puncture host skin in their search of blood. Tick saliva contains several compounds that have anti-coagulant, vasodilatory, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory functions. While helping the vector to feed, tick saliva also modifies the site where pathogens are injected and, in many cases, facilitates the infection process. In recent years, we have contributed to the analysis of several salivary proteomes and the functional characterization of tick saliva proteins. A deeper understanding of tick feeding biology is needed to discover weak links that can be targeted for effective anti-tick vaccine development. The overall objective of our research is to understand the mechanisms of tick-host-pathogen interactions at the molecular and cellular level. Our approach uses biological and biophysical methodologies to first identify the components of an interaction system (i.e., tick-vertebrate host) and then to examine the mechanistic details of the interaction into tick-host-pathogen interface. A combination of bioinformatic analyses, recombinant protein production, biochemical characterization, and RNA silencing will be utilized to accomplish this goal. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a new transmission blocking strategy for tick-borne diseases.

Research Group

Markus Berger Oliveira, Ph.D.      Research Fellow
Larissa Almeida Martins, Ph.D.    Post-Doctoral Visiting Fellow
Jan Kotal, Ph.D.                           Post-Doctoral Visiting Fellow
Sazzad Mahmood, Ph.D.             Post-Doctoral Visiting Fellow
Pedro Albuquerque, M.Sc.           Pre-Doctoral Visiting Fellow

Selected Publications

Visit PubMed for a complete publication list.

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