Sara Cherry, Ph.D.

faculty photo
Associate Professor of Microbiology
Department: Microbiology

Contact information
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Microbiology
304K Lynch Laboratories
433 South University Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-746-2384
Fax: 215-746-6697
B.S. (Chemistry)
U.C. Berkeley, 1994.
Ph.D. (Biology)
MIT, 2000.
Permanent link

Description of Research Expertise

Research Interests
Genetic and mechanistic studies of viral-host interactions.

Key words: virus, genomics, RNAi, genetics, Drosophila, innate, immunity.

Description of Research
Research in the Cherry lab is aimed at identifying cellular factors that regulate viral pathogenesis, including factors hijacked by viruses for replication and innate anti-viral mechanisms used by the host to combat the invader. We study a number of arthropod-borne RNA viruses, including flaviviruses such as West Nile virus, dengue virus and the newly emerging Zika virus. We are also studying the alphaviruses including Sindbis and Chikungunya virus as well as the bunyaviruses Rift Valley Fever virus and La Crosse virus. These are the three major families of viruses that are important human pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes to humans.
To identify cellular factors that play important roles in infection we are taking a genetic approach and screening for factors that impact viral replication. We model the vector biology using the genetically tractable model organism Drosophila. This allows us to use a wide-variety of techniques including both high-throughput RNA interference screens in cell culture, and forward genetic screens in animals to identify genes that impact the viral life cycle. We also use human cell culture models to study the infection of mammals performing cell-based screens and mechanistic studies. Combining forward genetics and functional genomics comparing and contrasting between viruses and hosts allows us to use these unbiased and global methodologies to identify many important and novel host factors that modulate virus-host interactions. Through these studies we have discovered a large number of new factors and pathways involved from new pattern recognition receptors and nucleic acid sensing to previously unknown factors required for viral entry. In addition, our recent studies have uncovered new facets of intestinal immunity demonstrating a role for the microbiota in antiviral defense.

Rotation Projects:
Interested students can perform a wide array of cell-based screens in either insect or human cells using emerging arboviruses including chikungunya and zika virus. In addition, in Drosophila, we have projects on intestinal infection where we are dissecting the role of the microbiota in protection from enteric arboviral infections. We have projects understanding how dysbiosis impacts susceptibility and to discover the bacterial products that impact infection. Furthermore, we have projects in human cells to dissect the mechanisms involved in viral RNA recognition and RNA decay as well as to study the mechanisms by which nutrient signaling and autophagy impact viral infection. Depending on the interests of the student, there are many additional possible projects in the areas of viral-host interactions and innate immunity. Students are encouraged to contact Dr. Cherry directly.

Lab personnel:
Jerome Molleston- CAMB M.D./Ph.D. Student
Frances Taschuk- CAMB Ph.D. Student
Christine Sansone- Postdoctoral Fellow
Brent Hackett- Postdoctoral Fellow
Sneh Harsh- Postdoctoral Fellow
Holly Ramage- Research Assistant Professor
Beth Gold- Research Technician
Keiko Rausch- Research Technician
Nathan Weinbren- Research Technician
Nicole Phan- Undergraduate Researcher
Brennan Lee- Undergraduate Researcher
Emily Hancin- Undergraduate Researcher
Tiffany Huang- Undergraduate Researcher

Selected Publications

Moy Ryan H, Gold Beth, Molleston Jerome M, Schad Veronica, Yanger Kilangsungla, Salzano Mary-Virginia, Yagi Yoshimasa, Fitzgerald Katherine A, Stanger Ben Z, Soldan Samantha S, Cherry Sara: Antiviral autophagy restrictsRift Valley fever virus infection and is conserved from flies to mammals. Immunity 40(1): 51-65, Jan 2014.

Yasunaga Ari, Hanna Sheri L, Li Jianqing, Cho Hyelim, Rose Patrick P, Spiridigliozzi Anna, Gold Beth, Diamond Michael S, Cherry Sara: Genome-wide RNAi screen identifies broadly-acting host factors that inhibit arbovirus infection. PLoS pathogens 10(2): e1003914, Feb 2014.

Xu Jie, Hopkins Kaycie, Sabin Leah, Yasunaga Ari, Subramanian Harry, Lamborn Ian, Gordesky-Gold Beth, Cherry Sara: ERK signaling couples nutrient status to antiviral defense in the insect gut. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110(37): 15025-30, Sep 2013.

Hopkins Kaycie C, McLane Laura M, Maqbool Tariq, Panda Debasis, Gordesky-Gold Beth, Cherry Sara: A genome-wide RNAi screen reveals that mRNA decapping restricts bunyaviral replication by limiting the pools of Dcp2-accessible targets for cap-snatching. Genes & development 27(13): 1511-25, Jul 2013.

Nakamoto, M., Moy, R., Xu, J., Bambina, S., Yasunaga, A., Shelly, S., Gold, B., and Cherry S.: Virus recognition by Toll-7 activates antiviral autophagy in Drosophila. Immunity(In Press), 2012.

Moser Theresa S, Schieffer Daniel, Cherry Sara: AMP-activated kinase restricts Rift Valley fever virus infection by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis. PLoS pathogens 8(4): e1002661, 2012.

Xu Jie, Grant Gregory, Sabin Leah R, Gordesky-Gold Beth, Yasunaga Ari, Tudor Mathew, Cherry Sara: Transcriptional pausing controls a rapid antiviral innate immune response in Drosophila. Cell host & microbe 12(4): 531-43, Oct 2012.

Rose Patrick P, Hanna Sheri L, Spiridigliozzi Anna, Wannissorn Nattha, Beiting Daniel P, Ross Susan R, Hardy Richard W, Bambina Shelly A, Heise Mark T, Cherry Sara: Natural resistance-associated macrophage protein is a cellular receptor for sindbis virus in both insect and mammalian hosts. Cell host & microbe 10(2): 97-104, Aug 2011.

Shelly Spencer, Lukinova Nina, Bambina Shelly, Berman Allison, Cherry Sara: Autophagy is an essential component of Drosophila immunity against vesicular stomatitis virus. Immunity 30(4): 588-98, Apr 2009.

Sabin Leah R, Zhou Rui, Gruber Joshua J, Lukinova Nina, Bambina Shelly, Berman Allison, Lau Chi-Kong, Thompson Craig B, Cherry Sara: Ars2 regulates both miRNA- and siRNA- dependent silencing and suppresses RNA virus infection in Drosophila. Cell 138(2): 340-51, Jul 2009.

back to top
Last updated: 02/09/2016
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania