Old Dominion University
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College of Sciences

Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. Girish Neelakanta
Assistant Professor (tenure track)
Center for Molecular Medicine
Department of Biological Sciences

2001-2005: Doctoral degree (Ph.D.), Microbial Genetics & Genomics
University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
1997-1999: Master of Science (M.Sc.), Microbiology & Biotechnology
Bangalore University, Bangalore, India
1994-1997: Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Microbiology
Bangalore University, Bangalore, India


  • 2012-present Assistant Professor of Center for Molecular Medicine, Department of
  • Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA
  • 2010-2012 Associate Research Scientist, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA
  • 2005-2010 Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA
  • 2001-2005 Ph.D. research assistantship, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
  • 1999-2001 Part-time lecturer, V.V. Puram College of Science, Bangalore University, Bangalore, India
  • 1999-2001 Project Assistant, Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
  • 1999- Biotechnologist, Jagdale Scientific Research Foundation, Bangalore, India


NIH/NIAID, RO3 Research grant award (2011-2014), Arthritis Foundation Postdoctoral fellowship award, Arthritis Foundation, USA (2007-2010), International Ph.D. dissertation fellowship, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Graduiertenkolleg "Genetik zellulärer Systeme" Germany (2001-2004),

Research Interests:

My laboratory studies host-microbe interactions at the molecular level. Current focus is to understand interactions of Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agent of Human anaplasmosis, with their arthropod vector Ixodes scapularis and mammalian hosts. In addition, we study several aspects of vector biology in terms of understanding arthropod feeding, behaviour to environment stimuli and symbiosis with microbes. We use combination of genetics, molecular biology, genomics, immunology, cell biology and microbiology approaches to decipher important aspects of these interactions. Understanding these interactions provide important information in the development of better strategies to treat and/or control vector-borne diseases. In the second line of investigation, we study organismal cold-tolerance. We use Drosophila melanogaster as a model to study different aspects of cold tolerance. Studies in this area would decipher important insights in organismal cold tolerance at the molecular level.

Teaching responsibilities

Biol405w: Seminar course (Fall 2012, Spring 2013)
Biol771/871: Vector-borne diseases (Fall 2013)
Biol496/596: Microbial Genetics (Spring 2014)

Selected peer-reviewed publications

  • Neelakanta G, and Sultana, H. (2013). The Use of Metagenomic Approaches to Analyze Changes in Microbial Communities. Microbiology Insights 6: 37-48.
  • Yang X, Hegde S, Shroder DY, Smith AA, Promnares K, Neelakanta G, Anderson JF, Fikrig E and Pal, U. (2013). The lipoprotein La7 contributes to Borrelia burgdorferi persistence in ticks and their transmission to naive hosts. Microbes Infect.
  • Sultana, H., Neelakanta, G., Foellmer, H.G., Montgomery, R.R., Anderson, J.F., Koski, R.A., Medzhitov, R.M., and Fikrig, E. (2012). Semaphorin 7A Contributes to West Nile Virus Pathogenesis through TGF-beta1/Smad6 Signaling. J Immunol 189:3150-3158. Selected as journal featured article and JI audio commentary
  • Ouyang, Z., Narasimhan, S., Neelakanta, G., Kumar, M., Pal, U., Fikrig, E., and Norgard, M.V. (2012). Activation of the RpoN-RpoS regulatory pathway during the enzootic life cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi. BMC Microbiol 12:44.
  • Neelakanta, G., Hudson, A.M., Sultana, H., Cooley, L., and Fikrig, E. (2012). Expression of Ixodes scapularis antifreeze glycoprotein enhances cold tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS One 7:e33447.
  • Sultana, H., Neelakanta, G., Rivero, F., Blau-Wasser, R., Schleicher, M., and Noegel, A.A. (2012). Ectopic expression of cyclase associated protein CAP restores the streaming and aggregation defects of adenylyl cyclase a deficient Dictyostelium discoideum cells. BMC Dev Biol 12:3.
  • Sultana, H.,* Neelakanta, G.,* Kantor, F.S., Malawista, S.E., Fish, D., Montgomery, R.R., and Fikrig, E. (2010).Anaplasma phagocytophilum induces actin phosphorylation to selectively regulate gene transcription in Ixodes scapularis ticks. J Exp Med 207:1727-1743. Equal author contribution
  • Neelakanta, G., Sultana, H., Fish, D., Anderson, J.F., and Fikrig, E. (2010). Anaplasma phagocytophilum induces Ixodes scapularis ticks to express an antifreeze glycoprotein gene that enhances their survival in the cold. J Clin Invest 120:3179-3190. Selected as Editor choice article in “Science”. 329, 1442, Research highlight article in “Nature Reviews Microbiology” Vol. 8, 2010, and Commentary article in J Clin Invest 120: 3087-90.
  • Sultana, H., Neelakanta, G., Eichinger, L., Rivero, F., and Noegel, A.A. (2009). Microarray phenotyping places cyclase associated protein CAP at the crossroad of signaling pathways reorganizing the actin cytoskeleton in Dictyostelium. Exp Cell Res 315:127-140.
  • Sultana, H., Foellmer, H.G., Neelakanta, G., Oliphant, T., Engle, M., Ledizet, M., Krishnan, M.N., Bonafe, N., Anthony, K.G., Marasco, W.A., et al. (2009). Fusion loop peptide of the West Nile virus envelope protein is essential for pathogenesis and is recognized by a therapeutic cross-reactive human monoclonal antibody. J Immunol 183:650-660.
  • Neelakanta, G., Sankar, T.S., and Schnetz, K. (2009). Characterization of a beta-glucoside operon (bgc) prevalent in septicemic and uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains. Appl Environ Microbiol 75:2284-2293.
  • Sankar, T.S., Neelakanta, G., Sangal, V., Plum, G., Achtman, M., and Schnetz, K. (2009). Fate of the H-NS-repressed bgl operon in evolution of Escherichia coli. PLoS Genet 5:e1000405.
  • Fikrig, E., Narasimhan, S., Neelakanta, G., Pal, U., Chen, M., and Flavell, R. (2009). Toll-like receptors 1 and 2 heterodimers alter Borrelia burgdorferi gene expression in mice and ticks. J Infect Dis 200:1331-1340.
  • Pal, U., Dai, J., Li, X., Neelakanta, G., Luo, P., Kumar, M., Wang, P., Yang, X., Anderson, J.F., and Fikrig, E. (2008). A differential role for BB0365 in the persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi in mice and ticks. J Infect Dis 197:148-155.
  • Li, X.,* Neelakanta, G.,* Liu, X.,* Beck, D.S., Kantor, F.S., Fish, D., Anderson, J.F., and Fikrig, E. (2007). Role of outer surface protein D in the Borrelia burgdorferi life cycle. Infect Immun 75:4237-4244. * Equal author contribution
  • Neelakanta, G., Li, X., Pal, U., Liu, X., Beck, D.S., DePonte, K., Fish, D., Kantor, F.S., and Fikrig, E. (2007). Outer surface protein B is critical for Borrelia burgdorferi adherence and survival within Ixodes ticks. PLoS Pathog 3:e33.
  • Santra, B. K., Reddy, P. A., Neelakanta, G., Mahadevan, S., Nethaji, M., and Chakravarty, A. R. (2002). Oxidative cleavage of DNA by a dipyridoquinoxaline copper(II) complex in the presence of ascorbic acid. J Inorg Biochem 89, 191-196.
    Book Chapters
    Sultana H, and Neelakanta, G. * (2013) Vector-borne diseases. In: Recent Developments in Biotechnology, Ed: J.N. Govil, Studium Press LLC, USA.* invited Corresponding author (In press)
    Neelakanta G, and Sultana, H. (2013) Bacterial, Protozoan and Viral Life-threatening Diseases. In: Recent Developments in Biotechnology, Ed: J.N. Govil, Studium Press LLC, USA. (In press)

  • Open positions

    Currently, there is a PhD research assistant position available starting from Summer/Fall 2014. Please submit your application to BIMD program at ODU Biology department.
    Postdoctoral positions are available only for those that have funding support. Please contact me if you have one and if you are interested to work in my laboratory.
    Limited number of volunteer research opportunities is available year round. Please email your CV to check for any openings.

    Contact information

    Department of Biological Sciences,
    Old Dominion University,
    Norfolk, VA 23529-0266
    Phone: (757) 683-3453
    Fax: (757) 683-5283
    Email: gneelaka@odu.edu