Department of Veterinary Pathobiology

Alexander W.E. Franz
Assistant Professor
Ph.D.

  • BS: Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel Germany
  • Ph.D.: Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel Germany
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships: Plant Research International, Wageningen, Netherlands;Purdue University, IN; Colorado State University, CO

Building Address: 303 Connaway Hall
Phone Number: (573) 884-2635
Email: franza@missouri.edu

Research Emphasis:

The research work in my laboratory focuses on the molecular interactions of arboviruses (i.e. dengue virus, Sindbis virus, chikungunya virus) with the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Our goal is to better understand the molecular basis of mosquito vector competence for arboviruses to develop novel strategies aimed at interrupting the viral disease cycle in the insect. One research effort focuses on the mosquito’s innate RNA interference (RNAi) pathway. We investigate how RNAi modulates arbovirus infections and how the RNAi pathway can be manipulated to block arbovirus replication in relevant mosquito tissues. An important tool for this research is the germline transformation of Ae. aegypti.  As a proof-of-principle study for a novel control strategy in the field, we recently generated transgenic Ae. aegypti, whichare refractory to dengue virus type 2 by tissue-specifically triggering the RNAi pathway against the virus.

Currently, our research is supported by two NIH grants. One of the projects aims at elucidating the molecular mechanism underlying arbovirus dissemination from the mosquito midgut and how apoptosis is involved in this mechanism. In the other project we are further pursuing the antiviral resistance strategy in Ae. aegypti, focusing on various arboviruses.

In a continuous effort we are investigating novel approaches to optimize transgene expression in Ae. aegypti, including the use of site-specific integration technology, novel tissue-specific promoters, and gene-knockdown/knockout strategies. For the first time, we successfully applied the CRISPR/Cas9 system in mosquitoes to stably disrupt the coding sequence of a gene.   

Selected Publications:

  1. Olson, K.E. and Franz, A.W.E. (2016). Genetically Modified Vectors for Control of Arboviruses. In: ‘Nikolaos Vasilakis and Duane Gubler, (eds.), Arboviruses: Molecular Biology, Evolution and Control’, Caister Academic Press, Norwich, U.K., 351 pp. [submitted August 2014].
  2. Franz, A.W.E., Kantor, A.M., Passarelli, A.L., Clem R.J. (2015). Tissue barriers to arbovirus infection in mosquitoes. Viruses 7(7), 3741-3767.
  3. Olson, K.E. and Franz, A.W.E. (2015).  Advances in genetically modified Aedes aegypti to control transmission of dengue viruses. Future Virology 10(5), 609-624. 
  4. Dong, S., Lin, J., Held, N.L., Clem, R.J., Passarelli, A.L., Franz, A.W.E. (2015). Heritable CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. PLoS One 10(3): e0122353.
  5. Franz, A.W.E., Balaraman, V., Fraser, M.J. (2015). Disruption of dengue virus transmission by mosquitoes. Current Opinion in Insect Science 6, 1-9.
  6. Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Raban, R.R., Black, IV, W.C., James, A.A., Olson, K.E. (2014).  Fitness impact and stability of a transgene conferring resistance to dengue-2 virus following introgression into a genetically-diverse Aedes aegypti strain. PLoS Neglected Diseases 8(5): e2833.
  7. Franz, A.W.E., Clem, R.J., Passarelli, A.L. (2014). Novel genetic and molecular tools for the investigation and control of dengue virus transmission by mosquitoes. Current Tropical Medicine Reports 1(1), 21-31.   
  8. Steel, J.J., Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Olson, K.E., Geiss, B.J. (2013). Subgenomic reporter RNA system for detection of alphavirus infection in mosquitoes. PLoS One 8(12), e84930.
  9. Khoo, C.C.H., Doty, J.B., Held, N.L., Olson, K.E., Franz, A.W.E. (2013). Isolation of midgut escape mutants of two American genotype dengue 2 viruses from Aedes aegypti. Virology Journal 10(1):257.
  10. Khoo, C.C.H., Doty, J.B., Heersink, M.S., Olson, K.E., Franz, A.W.E. (2013). Transgene-mediated suppression of the RNA interference pathway in Aedes aegypti interferes with gene silencing and enhances Sindbis virus and dengue virus type 2 replication. Insect Molecular Biology 22(1), 104–114.
  11. Franz, A.W.E., Jasinskiene, N., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Isaacs, A.T., Smith, M.R., Khoo, C.C.H., Heersink, M.S., James, A.A., Olson, K.E. (2011). Comparison of transgene expression in Aedes aegypti generated by mariner Mos1 transposition and PhiC31 site-directed recombination. Insect Molecular Biology 20(5), 587-598.
  12. Khoo, C.C.H., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Piper, J., Olson, K.E., Franz, A.W.E. (2010). The RNAi pathway affects midgut infection- and escape barriers for Sindbis virus in Aedes aegypti. BMC Microbiology, 10:130. 
  13. Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Piper, J., Smith, M.R., Khoo, C.C.H., James, A.A., Olson, K.E.  (2009). Stability and loss of a virus resistance phenotype over time in transgenic mosquitoes harboring an antiviral effector gene. Insect Molecular Biology 18(5), 661-672.
  14. Sanchez-Vargas, I., Scott, J.C., Poole, B.K., Franz, A.W.E., Barbosa-Solomieu, V., Wilusz, J., Olson, K.E., Blair, C.D. (2009). Dengue virus type 2 infections of Aedes aegypti are modulated by the mosquito’s RNA interference pathway. PLoS Pathogens 5, e1000299. 
  15. Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Adelman, Z.N., Blair, C.D., Beaty, B.J., James, A.A., Olson, K.E. (2006). Engineering RNAi-based transgenic resistance against dengue virus type 2 in Aedes aegypti. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. 103(11), 4198-4203.

 


  1. Olson, K.E. and Franz, A.W.E. (2016). Genetically Modified Vectors for Control of Arboviruses. In: ‘Nikolaos Vasilakis and Duane Gubler, (eds.), Arboviruses: Molecular Biology, Evolution and Control’, Caister Academic Press, Norwich, U.K., 351 pp. [submitted August 2014].
  2. Franz, A.W.E., Kantor, A.M., Passarelli, A.L., Clem R.J. (2015). Tissue barriers to arbovirus infection in mosquitoes. Viruses 7(7), 3741-3767.
  3. Olson, K.E. and Franz, A.W.E. (2015).  Advances in genetically modified Aedes aegypti to control transmission of dengue viruses. Future Virology 10(5), 609-624. 
  4. Dong, S., Lin, J., Held, N.L., Clem, R.J., Passarelli, A.L., Franz, A.W.E. (2015). Heritable CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. PLoS One 10(3): e0122353.
  5. Franz, A.W.E., Balaraman, V., Fraser, M.J. (2015). Disruption of dengue virus transmission by mosquitoes. Current Opinion in Insect Science 6, 1-9.
  6. Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Raban, R.R., Black, IV, W.C., James, A.A., Olson, K.E. (2014).  Fitness impact and stability of a transgene conferring resistance to dengue-2 virus following introgression into a genetically-diverse Aedes aegypti strain. PLoS Neglected Diseases 8(5): e2833.
  7. Franz, A.W.E., Clem, R.J., Passarelli, A.L. (2014). Novel genetic and molecular tools for the investigation and control of dengue virus transmission by mosquitoes. Current Tropical Medicine Reports 1(1), 21-31.   
  8. Steel, J.J., Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Olson, K.E., Geiss, B.J. (2013). Subgenomic reporter RNA system for detection of alphavirus infection in mosquitoes. PLoS One 8(12), e84930.
  9. Khoo, C.C.H., Doty, J.B., Held, N.L., Olson, K.E., Franz, A.W.E. (2013). Isolation of midgut escape mutants of two American genotype dengue 2 viruses from Aedes aegypti. Virology Journal 10(1):257.
  10. Khoo, C.C.H., Doty, J.B., Heersink, M.S., Olson, K.E., Franz, A.W.E. (2013). Transgene-mediated suppression of the RNA interference pathway in Aedes aegypti interferes with gene silencing and enhances Sindbis virus and dengue virus type 2 replication. Insect Molecular Biology 22(1), 104–114.
  11. Franz, A.W.E., Jasinskiene, N., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Isaacs, A.T., Smith, M.R., Khoo, C.C.H., Heersink, M.S., James, A.A., Olson, K.E. (2011). Comparison of transgene expression in Aedes aegypti generated by mariner Mos1 transposition and PhiC31 site-directed recombination. Insect Molecular Biology 20(5), 587-598.
  12. Khoo, C.C.H., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Piper, J., Olson, K.E., Franz, A.W.E. (2010). The RNAi pathway affects midgut infection- and escape barriers for Sindbis virus in Aedes aegypti. BMC Microbiology, 10:130. 
  13. Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Piper, J., Smith, M.R., Khoo, C.C.H., James, A.A., Olson, K.E.  (2009). Stability and loss of a virus resistance phenotype over time in transgenic mosquitoes harboring an antiviral effector gene. Insect Molecular Biology 18(5), 661-672.
  14. Sanchez-Vargas, I., Scott, J.C., Poole, B.K., Franz, A.W.E., Barbosa-Solomieu, V., Wilusz, J., Olson, K.E., Blair, C.D. (2009). Dengue virus type 2 infections of Aedes aegypti are modulated by the mosquito’s RNA interference pathway. PLoS Pathogens 5, e1000299.
  15. Franz, A.W.E., Sanchez-Vargas, I., Adelman, Z.N., Blair, C.D., Beaty, B.J., James, A.A., Olson, K.E. (2006). Engineering RNAi-based transgenic resistance against dengue virus type 2 in Aedes aegypti. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. 103(11), 4198-4203.  

 

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