Lucas Tirloni, Ph.D.

Tick-Pathogen Transmission Unit

Hamilton, MT

Lucas Tirloni, Ph.D.

Tenure-track Investigator
Chief, Tick-Pathogen Transmission Unit

Contact: For contact information, search the NIH Enterprise Directory.

Photo of Lucas Tirloni, Ph.D.

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

Program Description

Human vector-borne diseases in the United States are primarily tick-borne. Tick-borne diseases 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.



Ph.D., 2015, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

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.

Selected Publications

Kim TK, Tirloni L, Bencosme-Cuevas E, Kim TH, Diedrich JK, Yates JR 3rd, Mulenga A. Borrelia burgdorferi infection modifies protein content in saliva of Ixodes scapularis nymphs. BMC Genomics. 2021 Mar 4;22(1):152. 

Tirloni L, Lu S, Calvo E, Sabadin G, Di Maggio LS, Suzuki M, Nardone G, da Silva Vaz I Jr, Ribeiro JMC. Integrated analysis of sialotranscriptome and sialoproteome of the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus (s.l.): Insights into gene expression during blood feeding. J Proteomics. 2020 Oct 30;229:103899. 

Tirloni L, Braz G, Nunes RD, Gandara ACP, Vieira LR, Assumpcao TC, Sabadin GA, da Silva RM, Guizzo MG, Machado JA, Costa EP, Santos D, Gomes HF, Moraes J, Dos Santos Mota MB, Mesquita RD, de Souza Leite M, Alvarenga PH, Lara FA, Seixas A, da Fonseca RN, Fogaça AC, Logullo C, Tanaka AS, Daffre S, Oliveira PL, da Silva Vaz I Jr, Ribeiro JMC. A physiologic overview of the organ-specific transcriptome of the cattle tick Rhipicephalus microplus. Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 26;10(1):18296. 

Tirloni L, Kim TK, Coutinho ML, Ali A, Seixas A, Termignoni C, Mulenga A, da Silva Vaz I Jr. The putative role of Rhipicephalus microplus salivary serpins in the tick-host relationship. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Apr;71:12-28. 

Tirloni L, Islam MS, Kim TK, Diedrich JK, Yates JR 3rd, Pinto AF, Mulenga A, You MJ, Da Silva Vaz I Jr. Saliva from nymph and adult females of Haemaphysalis longicornis: a proteomic study. Parasit Vectors. 2015 Jun 24;8.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication list.

Research Group

The Tick-Pathogen Transmission Unit focuses on study of tick salivary gland physiology and tick feeding biology to understand how salivary proteins support blood feeding and facilitate transmission of tick-borne pathogens. A deeper understanding of tick feeding biology is needed to discover weak links that can be targeted for effective development of anti-tick and/or pathogen-blocking vaccines.

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