Sara Cherry, Ph.D.

faculty photo
John W. Eckman Professor of Medical Science
Department: Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Contact information
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Microbiology
472A Stemmler Hall
3450 Hamilton Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-746-2384
Lab: 215-746-2388
B.S. (Chemistry)
U.C. Berkeley, 1994.
Ph.D. (Biology)
MIT, 2000.
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Description of Research Expertise

Research Interests
Genetic and mechanistic studies of viral-host interactions

Key words:
emerging virus, coronavirus, arbovirus, genomics, antivirals, genetics, Drosophila, innate, immunity

Description of Research
The Cherry Lab is interested in genetic and mechanistic studies of viral-host interactions. The Lab uses chemical and genetic screening technologies to explore the interface between viruses and hosts. The laboratory performs a wide array of cell-based screens in human and insect cells studying emerging viruses with a historical focus on arthropod-borne viruses such as chikungunya and zika virus. Innate immunity is the first line of defense against viruses and much of the recognition of these invaders is at the level of nucleic acid recognition. Arthropod-borne human viruses are RNA viruses and we are examining the role of RNA binding proteins and the RNA decay machinery in innate antiviral defense against these viruses in human cells. Since these viruses can infect diverse tissues we are also exploring antiviral innate signaling activities in distinct cell types including neurons, endothelial cells, and myeloid lineages. We have demonstrated cell-type specific immune pathways. Moreover, as these arthropod-borne viruses infect the vector insect enterically, we use Drosophila to model these intestinal infections to explore the role of the microbiota and innate defenses in the gut in the response to enteric arboviral infections. Projects include understanding how dysbiosis impacts susceptibility and discovering the bacterial products that impact infection. The recent coronavirus pandemic has led us to use our screening technologies to identify drugs that have antiviral activity as well as the role of innate pathways in controlling infection of SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory cells. The laboratory has many projects exploring diverse areas of viral-host interactions and innate immunity.
In addition, the Cherry lab has extended their studies to precision medicine and oncology. In collaborations across UPENN including the high-throughput screening core, oncologists, and pathologists the lab has developed a pipeline to test patient tumor cells for sensitivities to chemotherapeutics in an effort to personalize treatments. Work in acute myelogenous leukemia has demonstrated clear differences in patient responses and has uncovered new dependencies that will be translated into new treatment strategies in the future.

Rotation Projects:
Interested students can work on diverse aspects of viral-host interactions of emerging viruses from arboviruses to coronaviruses. They can involve the study of factors that facilitate infection such as entry pathways or the study of innate immune mechanisms at play.

Lab personnel:
Rachel Braun -BMB Grad Student
Tamanna Srivastava-BMB Grad Student
Trevor M Griesman-CAMB Grad Student
Jorge A Acuña Alzamora-CAMB Grad Student
Kaeri Medina Martinez-CAMB Grad Student
Mark Dennis Dittmar-CAMB Grad Student
Guangda Shi -Postdoctoral Researcher
Jaeseung Lee-Postdoctoral Researcher
Priyanka Bhakt-Postdoctoral Researcher
Steven Miller -Postdoctoral Researcher
Smita Bhutda-Postdoctoral Researcher
Alex Huber -Research Specialist B
Yue Li-Research Specialist B
Jesse Hulahan -Research Specialist C
Beth Gordesky Gold-Research Specialist D
Swechha Mainali Pokharel-Research Specialist D
Benjamin Gabriel-Senior Research Investigator
Kasirajan Ayyanathan-Senior Research Investigator
Ashley Abraham-Undergraduate
Lara K Hairapetian-Undergraduate
Oleksandr Zginnyk -Undergraduate

Selected Publications

Sansone, C., Cohen, J., Yasunaga, A., Xu, J., Osborn, G., Subramanian, H., Gold, B., Buchon, N. and Cherry, S.: Microbiota-dependent priming of antiviral intestinal immunity in Drosophila. Cell Host Microbe 18(5): 571-81, Nov 2015 Notes: Spotlight in Trends in Microbiology, News and Views, Nature Microbiology.

Beiting, D.P., Hidano, S. Fang, Q. Baggs, J.E., Geskes, J.M., Wherry, J.E., Hunter, C.A., Roos, D.S., and Cherry, S. : A Genomic Screen Identifies the Orphan Nuclear Receptor TLX as an Enhancer of STAT1-mediated Transcription and Immunity to Toxoplasma gondii. PLOS Biology 13(7): e1002200, 2015 Notes: Synopsis in PLOS Biology.

Hopkins, K.C., Tartell, M.A., Herrmann, C., Hackett, B.A., Taschuk, F., Panda, D., Menghani, S., Sabin, L.R., Cherry, S.: Virus-induced translational arrest through 4EBP1/2-dependent decay of 5'TOP mRNAs restricts viral infection. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(22): E2920-9, Jun 2015.

Hackett, B.A., Yasunaga, A., Panda, D., Tartell, M., Hopkins, K., Hensley, S.E., and Cherry S: RNASEK is required for internalization of diverse acid-dependent viruses. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(25): 7797-802, Jun 2015 Notes: Epub 2015 Jun 8.

Moy, R.H, Cole, B.S., Yasunaga, A., Gold, B., Shankarling, G., Varble, A. Molleston, J., tenOever, B.R., Lynch, K.W. and Cherry S. : Stem loop recognition by DDX17 facilitates miRNA processing and antiviral defense. Cell 178(4): 764-77, Aug 2014.

Panda, D., Pascual-Garcia, P., Dunagin, D., Tudor, M., Hopkins, K.C., Xu, J., Gold, B., Raj, A., Capelson, M. and Cherry, S. : Nup98 promotes antiviral gene expression to restrict RNA virus infection in Drosophila. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111(37): E3890-9, 2014.

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Last updated: 08/28/2023
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