LOEWE Center for
Insect Biotechnology
& Bioresources

Marisa Skaljac


Junior Group Leader

Phone: +49 641 99-37747

Email: marisa.skaljac@ime.fraunhofer.de

Room: 738

Building: HBR58


since 2017 Junior group Leader, Fraunhofer IME Bioresources Project Group, Giessen, Germany
07/2015-01/2017 Postdoc, Fraunhofer IME Bioresources Project Group, Giessen, Germany.
06/2014–06/2015 Postdoc, Institute for phytopathology and applied zoology, University of Giessen, Germany.
12/2012–06/2014 Postdoc, Institute for Adriatic Crops, Croatia
10/2010–03/2012 Member of Management Committee, COST FA0701
02/2009–06/2010 Doctoral student, Volcani center (Department of Entomology), Israel
06/2008–12/2012 Doctoral student, University of Zagreb, Croatia
03/2008–12/2012 Doctoral student, research assistant, Institute for Adriatic Crops, Croatia
01/2008 Diploma in biology and chemistry, University of Split, Croatia

Research Interests

Aphids (Hemiptera, Sternorrhyncha, Aphidoidea) are notorious agricultural pests that cause damage to numerous plants by feeding on the phloem sap and vectoring phytoviruses. They are also biological models for the investigation of symbiosis, insect–plant interactions and virus transmission.

Chemical insecticides are still important control strategy against aphids. However, their frequent application leads to developed resistance in aphids, contamination of the environment and health risk for humans.

In this group we use following approaches to find alternative strategies for the aphid control:

1) Effect of antimicrobial peptides on bacterial symbionts of aphids

Aphids are hosts for multiple bacterial symbionts. Primary symbiont, Buchnera aphidicola supplements their unbalanced diet with essential amino acids. Other bacterial symbionts may protect them from biological threats, or provide them with better adaptation to the environment. Disrupting and manipulating symbionts have significant impact on reduction of growth, development and reproduction. The aim of this approach is to induce such an effect by feeding with antimicrobial peptides.

2) RNA interference (RNAi) based aphid control

RNAi refers to dsRNA-mediated gene silencing and it has been successfully performed in several insect orders. Fully known genomic status of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) (e.g sequenced genome, full length cDNAs) provides valuable information for studying gene functions through RNAi. Gene silencing in the pea aphid can lead to higher mortality, down-regulation and malfunction of the targeted gene. The aim here is to find gene targets which might be used for producing of insect-resistant crops.

Reduced aphid fitness achieved with described strategies may lead to lower infestation of crops, potentially below an economically relevant infestation level. This may result in reduced application of chemical insecticides.

Other research interests

• insect-symbiont interactions

• diversity and localization of bacterial symbionts in insect models

• transmission of bacterial symbionts

• investigating the potential functions of bacterial symbionts

Group members

Dr. Marisa Skaljac, group leader

Phillipp Kirfel, PhD student

Jens Grotmann, technical asisstent

Olga Lang, technical asisstent

Maximillian Seip, technical asisstent

Svenja Thöneböhn, student helper (HiWi)


Skaljac M, Vogel H, Wielsch N, Mihajlovic S, Vilcinskas A (Forthcoming 2019) Transmission of a protease-secreting bacterial symbiont among pea aphids via host plants. Frontiers in Physiology,
Heep J, Klaus A, Kessel T, Seip M, Vilcinskas A, Skaljac M (2019) Proteomic Analysis of the Venom from the Ruby Ant Myrmica rubra and the Isolation of a Novel Insecticidal Decapeptide Insects, 10 (2)
Skaljac M, Kirfel P, Grotmann J, Vilcinskas A (2018) Fitness costs of infection with Serratia symbiotica are associated with greater susceptibility to insecticides in the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Pest management science, 74 (8) , 1829-1836.
Baumann A, Skaljac M, Lehmann R, Vilcinskas A, Franta Z (2017) Urate Oxidase produced by Lucilia sericata medical maggots is localized in Malpighian tubes and facilitates allantoin production Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 83 , 44-53.
Luna-Ramirez K, Skaljac M, Grotmann J, Kirfel P, Vilcinskas A (2017) Orally Delivered Scorpion Antimicrobial Peptides Exhibit Activity against Pea Aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) and Its Bacterial Symbionts. Toxins, 9 (9)
Skaljac M, Kanakala S, Zanic K, Puizina J, Pleic IL, Ghanim M (2017) Diversity and Phylogenetic Analyses of Bacterial Symbionts in Three Whitefly Species from Southeast Europe. Insects, 8 , 113.
Will T, Schmidtberg H, Skaljac M, Vilcinskas A (2017) Heat shock protein 83 plays pleiotropic roles in embryogenesis, longevity, and fecundity of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Development Genes and Evolution, 227 (1) , 1-9.
Skaljac M (2016) Bacterial Symbionts of Aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae). , in Biology and Ecology of Aphids, Vilcinskas A (Eds.) , 100–126. CRC Press:
Kliot A, Kontsedalov S, Lebedev G, Brumin M, Cathrin PB, Marubayashi JM, Skaljac M, Belausov E, Czosnek H, Ghanim M (2014) Fluorescence in situ hybridizations (FISH) for the localization of viruses and endosymbiotic bacteria in plant and insect tissues Journal of Visualized Experiments, 84 e51030
Prijovic M, Skaljac M, Drobnjakovic T, Zanic K, Peric P, Marcic D, Puizina J (2014) Genetic variation of the greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Hemiptera:Aleyrodidae), among populations from Serbia and neighbouring countries, as inferred from COI sequence variability Bulletin of entomological research, 104 , 357–366.
Skaljac M, Zanić K, Hrnčić S, Radonjić S, Perović T, Ghanim M. (2013) Diversity and localization of bacterial symbionts in three whitefly species (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) from the east coast of the Adriatic Sea Bulletin of entomological research, 103 (1) , 48–59.
Gottlieb Y, Zchori-Fein E, Mozes-Daube N, Kontsedalov S, Skaljac M, Brumin M, Sobol I, Czosnek H, Vavre F, Fleury F, Ghanim M (2010) The transmission efficiency of Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus by the whitefly Bemisia tabaci is correlated with the presence of a specific symbiotic bacterium species Journal of Virology, 84 (18) , 9310–9317.
Skaljac M, Ghanim M (2010) Tomato yellow leaf curl disease and the plant-virus vector interactions Israel Journal of Plant Sciences, 58 , 103–111.
Skaljac M, Zanic K, Goreta Ban S, Konstedalov S, Ghanim M (2010) Co-infection and localization of secondary symbionts in two whitefly species BMC Microbiology, 10:142 , 1–15.