Perera Lab
The research of Dr. Rushika Perera's laboratory is focused on understanding the impact of cellular metabolism on the replication of mosquito- and tick-borne flaviviruses within their vertebrate hosts and Arthropod vectors. Specifically, we use a systems biology approach including metabolomics and proteomics combined with molecular virology, cell biology, biochemistry and structural biology to study flavivirus-host interactions. Similar to other positive strand RNA viruses, flaviviruses cause significant perturbations to the host metabolome to facilitate the formation of replication factories within specialized membrane structures. These structures are required for viral genome replication, assembly and egress. The host metabolome also fulfills the energy requirements for virus replication. Therefore, it is a key avenue to understand the dynamics of virus-host interactions and provides a novel avenue to identify targets for antiviral intervention. The goal of my research is to identify control points in cellular metabolic pathways that are required for virus replication, and evaluate these control points as novel targets for antiviral intervention.
research project

COVID-19: Developing platforms to test antivirals against SARS-CoV-2

The Perera lab (in collaboration with the Geiss Laboratory and the CSU OVPR) has mobilized testing of FDA-approved antiviral drugs that can be repurposed and rapidly driven into clinical trials, as well as new compounds that can be evaluated for efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. We are currently working with collaborators and partners from around the world to screen their drug and compound inventories.

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research project

Metabolite biomarkers of severe disease, resolution and therapeutic efficacy

We utilize Systems Biology based-metabolomics to develop small molecule biosignatures of severe disease. These biosignatures can be utilized for early detection and triaging of patients, to better assist clinical management of those at greater risk. They are also powerful indicators of disease resolution, recurrence and/or therapeutic efficacy.

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research project

Metabolic basis of mosquito-endosymbiont-virus interactions

These studies will identify biochemical pathways that change in the mosquito following infection with arboviruses, and how the endosymbiont Wolbachia used to control virus transmission in Aedes aegypti may be metabolically competing with the virus. Identifying these pathways that are integral to mosquito biology, provide a novel avenue to interfere with vector transmission of the virus.

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research project

Exploiting Vulnerabilities in Mosquito Metabolism for Prevention of Human Arboviral Transmissions

Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses are spread by the same mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti. The Perera lab studies specific metabolic processes in mosquitos required for successful viral replication. These studies will identify metabolic “choke-points” that can be exploited to develop interventions and thus block mosquito-human viral transmission.

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research project

Metabolic basis of insecticide resistance

We are investigating the metabolic basis of insecticide resistance in Aedes aegypti. We have developed capability to trace the metabolites of insecticides and measure the enzymatic activities responsible for insecticide break down and development of resistance. These studies will assist in driving improvements in insecticide design and informed use of insecticides.

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Publications

Increased serum sialic acid is associated with morbidity and mortality in a murine model of dengue disease.

Espinosa DA, Beatty PR, Puerta-Guardo H, Islam MN, Belisle JT, Perera R, Harris E.
J Gen Virol. 2019 Sep 17. doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.001319. [Epub ahead of print]

Metabolomic Insights into Human Arboviral Infections: Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika Viruses.

Byers NM, Fleshman AC, Perera R, Molins CR.
Viruses. 2019 Mar 6;11(3). pii: E225. doi: 10.3390/v11030225.

Experimental Zika virus infection of Jamaican fruit bats (Artibeus jamaicensis) and possible entry of virus into brain via activated microglial cells.

Malmlov A, Bantle C, Aboellail T, Wagner K, Campbell CL, Eckley M, Chotiwan N, Gullberg RC, Perera R, Tjalkens R, Schountz T.
PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2019 Feb 4;13(2):e0007071. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007071. eCollection 2019 Feb.

Stearoly-CoA desaturase 1 differentiates early and advanced dengue virus infections and determines virus particle infectivity.

Gullberg RC, Steel JJ, Pujari V, Rovnak J, Crick DC, Perera R.
PLoS Pathog. 2018 Aug 17;14(8):e1007261. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007261. eCollection 2018 Aug.

Variation in competence for ZIKV transmission by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in Mexico.

Garcia-Luna SM, Weger-Lucarelli J, Rückert C, Murrieta RA, Young MC, Byas AD, Fauver JR, Perera R, Flores-Suarez AE, Ponce-Garcia G, Rodriguez AD, Ebel GD, Black WC 4th.
PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2018 Jul 2;12(7):e0006599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0006599. eCollection 2018 Jul.

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People

Rushika Perera, Ph.D.

Lab Principal Investigator (PI)
Associate Professor

Carley McAlister, M.S.

Research Associate I

Laura St Clair

Graduate Research Assistant

Lea Chen

Student Researcher

Camy Guenther

Student Researcher

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