Tonya Colpitts

Tonya Colpitts, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Tropical Medicine
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
J Bennett Johnston Bldg. Room 514
1430 Tulane Avenue 
New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: (504) 988-6936
Fax: (504) 988-7313

Personal Statement:

Research in my lab focuses on the pathogenesis of flaviviruses in the mosquito vector as well as interactions between flaviviruses and host cell proteins and pathways. We examine the effects of viral infection on the host cell environment, gene expression and protein levels, as well as ways that the flaviviruses have evolved to evade host cell immune responses. The main viruses that we work with are dengue, West Nile and Yellow Fever viruses. We are also trying to discover the role of nuclear capsid localization during flavivirus infection in both mosquito and mammalian cells, with a focus on dengue capsid in liver cells.

Research Interests:

  • Flavivirus pathogenesis in the mosquito vector
  • Flaviviral protein-host protein interactions
  • The role of immature flavivirus in the mosquito


Educational Background:

  • Ph.D., Microbiology & Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX) 2008
  • B.A., Biology, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, HI) 1996


Professional Achievements:

  • 2011 - American Society of Trop. Medicine & Hygiene Travel Award, Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2011 - American Society for Virology Travel Award, Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN
  • 2006 - American Society for Virology Travel Award, Annual Meeting, Madison, WI
  • 2006 - Who's Who Scholarship Award

Professional Memberships:

  • Sigma Xi
  • American Society for Virology
  • American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygeine

Selected Publications:

Colpitts TM, Conway MJ, Montgomery R, Fikrig E. West Nile Virus: Biology, Transmission and Human Infection. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2012 Oct; 25:635-648; doi:10.1128

Voorham JM, Rodenhuis-Zybert IA, Nunez NVA, Colpitts TM, van der Ende-Metselaar H, Fikrig E, Diamond MS, Wilschut J, Smit JM. Antibodies against the envelope glycoprotein promote infectivity of immature dengue virus serotype 2. PLoS One 2012;7(3):e29957

Colpitts TM, Barthel S, Wang P, Fikrig E. Dengue virus capsid protein binds core histones and inhibits nucleosome formation in human liver cells. PLoS One 2011;6(9):e24365. PMC 21909430

Colpitts TM, Cox J, Vanlandingham, Feitosa F, Cheng G, Kurscheid S, Wang P, Krishnan MN, Higgs S, Fikrig E. Alterations in the Aedes aegypti transcriptome during infection with West Nile, dengue and yellow fever viruses. PLoS Pathogens 2011 Sep;7(9):e1002189. PMC 21909258

Cheng G, Liu L, Wang P, Zhang Y, Zhao YO, Colpitts TM, Fabiana F, Anderson JF, Fikrig E. An in vivo transfection approach elucidates a role for Aedes aegypti thioester-containing proteins in flaviviral infection. PLoS One 2011;6(7):e22786. PMC 21818390

Colpitts TM, Cox J, Nguyen A, Feitosa F, Krishnan MN, Fikrig E. Use of a tandem affinity purification assay to detect interactions between West Nile and dengue viral proteins and proteins of the mosquito vector. Virology. 2011 Aug 15;417(1):179-87. PMC 21700306

Colpitts TM, Rodenhuis-Zybert I, Moesker B, Wang P, Fikrig E, Smit J. prM-antibody renders immature West Nile virus infectious in vivo. J Gen Virol. 2011 Oct;92(Pt 10):2281-5. PMC 21697345

Sukumaran B, Mastronunzio JE, Narasimhan S, Fankhauser S, Uchil PD, Levy R, Graham M, Colpitts TM, Lesser CF, Fikrig E. Anaplasma phagocytophilum AptA modulates Erk1/2 signalling. Cell Microbiol. 2011 Jan;13(1):47-61. PMC 20716207

Vela EM, Colpitts TM, Zhang L, Davey RA, Aronson JF. Pichindé virus is trafficked through a dynamin 2 endocytic pathway that is dependent on cellular Rab5- and Rab7-mediated endosomes. Arch Virol. 2008 153(7):1391-6. PMC 18543061

Colpitts TM, Moore A, Kolokoltsov A, Davey RA. Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus infection of mosquito cells requires acidification as well as mosquito homologs of the endocytic proteins Rab5 and Rab7. Virology. 2007 Dec 5;369(1):78-91. PMC 17707875

Vela EM, Zhang TM, Colpitts TM, Davey RA, Aronson JF. Arenavirus entry occurs through a cholesterol-dependent, non-caveolar, clathrin-mediated endocytic mechanism. Virology, 2007 Dec 5;369(1):1-11. PMC 17698159

Kolokoltsov A, Wang E, Colpitts TM, Weaver SC, Davey RA. Pseudotyped viruses permit rapid detection of neutralizing antibodies in human and equine serum against Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2006 Oct;75(4):702-9. PMC 17038698



Level of Instruction:


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Department of Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2301, New Orleans, LA 70112, 504-988-3558