academics

Dr. Seasson Phillips Vitiello

Dr. Vitiello teaches Genetics, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Cell Signaling.  The focus of her research is to use the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) to understand the primordial mechanisms of oxidative stress response by identifying genetic interactions resulting from a lack of a functional vacuolar cystine transporter.  She also collaborates with Dr. Steve Matzner on a project to identify genes that are involved in drought-response in tomato plants and to understand how these genes are regulated.  Both projects employ modern molecular biology and functional genomics strategies.

Dr. Vitiello received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, followed by a post-doctoral research fellowship there and at Sanford Research/USD.  She is the President of the Sigma Delta Graduate Women in Science, the Site Director and Co-PI of the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) Site in Cellular and Molecular Biology at Sanford Research and Augustana College, and the Director of the Sanford Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR).  For information on the NSF REU Site and SPUR. please see http://www.sanfordresearch.org/education/undergraduates/spur/

 

Assistant Professor
Biology Department
Augustana College
2001 S Summit Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57197
Phone 605.274.5525
Toll-Free 800.727.2844 ext. 5525
Fax 605.274.4718
E-mail: seasson.vitiello@augie.edu

 

Education/Training

Ph.D. Biochemistry                                                              University of Rochester                      2008
Dissertation:  The Yeast Model for Batten Disease:  Genetic and Physical Interactions

B.S., Biology                                                                            Nazareth College                                 1999

 

Appointments

Assistant Professor, September 2012-present
Augustana College Biology Department, Sioux Falls, SD

Visiting Assistant Professor, September 2010-2012
Augustana College Biology Department, Sioux Falls, SD

Adjunct Assistant Scientist, August 2010-present
Children’s Health Research Center, Sanford Research/USD, Sioux Falls, SD

Staff Scientist, August 2009-August 2010
Children’s Health Research Center, Sanford Research/USD, Sioux Falls, SD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, March 2008 – July 2009
Mentor:  David A. Pearce, Ph.D.
University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY                                                                        

Courses Taught

Cell Biology
Molecular Biology
Genetics
Biology and Human Concerns
Topics Course: Cell Signaling

 

Research Interests

Ahlers
Bethany Ahlers '14 hard at work performing qPCR .

The Vitiello lab studies phenotypes that occur when ERS1, which encodes the cystine transporter, is absent in ers1-∆ cells.  The human ortholog of Ers1p is Cystinosin, which is mutated in patients with a pediatric lysosomal storage disorder called Cystinosis.  In the yeast model, cystine is transported out of the vacuole by Ers1p where the cystine is reduced to cysteine in the cytoplasm, which in turn is used in various processes such as glutathione synthesis.  Using qPCR, students have measured differential gene expression in ers1-Δ versus the parental strain to find pathways are perturbed in the mutant.  Students will also use various molecular genetic techniques to understand these genetic interactions.  Alternatively, students may use molecular genetic techniques to characterize the thioredoxins in yeast.  Dr. Vitiello’s collaborators on these projects include Drs. David Pearce, Sergio Padilla-Lopez, Marianna Madeo, and Peter Vitiello at Sanford Research. 

Dr. Vitiello also collaborates with Dr. Steven Matzner, the plant biologist at Augustana College.  Drs. Vitiello and Matzner want to understand the molecular mechanisms of how tomato plants respond to drought.  They are using DNA microarray and qPCR to identify genes that are differentially expressed in plants grown in high water versus low water conditions.  Many pathways are regulated at the epigenetic level in plants, so students working on this project are looking for cytosine methylation, an epigenetic marker, of these target genes.  In order to identify clusters of methylated cytosines, bisulfate sequencing of the genomes of the tomato plants grown in the two conditions will be compared.   Long term plans for the project include performing RNA-seq to determine if alternative splicing plays a role in drought response.       

Dr. Vitiello's Summer Research Team 2013
Kirby Rickel
‘15, Jessica Simpkins ’15, Lauren Cole ’15 (Tufts U.) and Dr. Vitiello

 

Grants Supporting Undergraduate Research with Dr. Vitiello

NSF REU Grant Number 1262744 (2013-present).  Role: Co-principal Investigator.  Title: National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Site in Cellular and Molecular Biology at Sanford Research and Augustana College.  Amount (for entire program): $117,000 per year.

NIH Grant Number 2 P20 RR016479 from the INBRE Program of the National Center for Research Resources (SD BRIN grant, 2001-present). Title: Development of the Biomedical Research Infrastructure of South Dakota. Amount (for Augustana as a whole): $474,000 per year.

 

Publications

Wolfe DM, Padilla-Lopez S, Vitiello SP, and Pearce DA.  pH-dependent localization of Btn1p in the yeast model of Batten disease.  Disease Models and Mechanisms 4(1):120-5, 2011.  PMCID: PMC3008966.

Vitiello SP, Benedict, JW, Padilla-Lopez S, and Pearce DA.  Interaction between Sdo1p and Btn1p in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae model for Batten disease.  Human Molecular Genetics 1;19(5):931-42, 2010.  PMCID: PMC2816617.

Vitiello SP, Wolfe, D, and Pearce, DA. Absence of Btn1p in the yeast model for juvenile Batten disease may cause arginine to become toxic to yeast cells. Human Molecular Genetics 1;16(9):1007-16, 2007.  PMID: 17341489.

Phillips S, de Voer G, Taschner PEM, Korey C, Codlin S, Mole SE, and Pearce DA. Characterizing pathogenic processes in Batten disease: use of small eukaryotic model systems.  Biochimica Biophysica Acta 1762(10):906-19, 2006. PMID: 17049819.

Phillips S, Benedict, JW, Weimer JM, and Pearce DA. CLN3, the Protein Associated with Batten Disease: Structure, Function, and Localization.  Journal of Neuroscience Research 79:573-583, 2005.  PMID: 15657902.

Fang F, Phillips S, and Butler JS. Rat1p and Rai1p function with the nuclear exosome in the processing and degradation of rRNA precursors.  RNA 11(10):1571-8, 2005.  PMCID: PMC1370841.

Phillips S and Butler JS. Contribution of domain structure to the RNA 3’ end processing and degradation functions of the nuclear exosome subunit Rrp6p.  RNA 9:1098-1107, 2003.  PMCID: PMC1370474.

 

Selected Seminars

Vitiello SP. The responsibility of a mentor and their trainee.  Sanford Research Ethics Seminar Series – Sanford Research/USD, Sioux Falls, SD (2013).

Vitiello SP, Caressa Lietman, and Pearce DA.  Alterations in the Vacuolar (H+)-ATPase in the Yeast Model of Cystinosis.  Cystinosis Research Foundation Second International Cystinosis Research Symposium – University of California, Irvine, CA (2010).

Vitiello SP, Caressa Lietman, and Pearce DA.  A Yeast Model for the Pediatric Lysosomal Storage Disorder Cystinosis: Characterization of ers1-∆.  2nd Annual Sanford/Burnham Symposium - Burnham Institute for Medical Research, LaJolla, CA (2009).

Vitiello SP.  Yeast as a Model to Study the Pediatric Lysosomal Storage Disorder Cystinosis.  Augustana College Biology Seminar Series – Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD (2009).

Vitiello SP and Pearce DA.  Yeast as a model system for cystinosis. Cystinosis Research Foundation International Cystinosis Research Symposium – University of California, Irvine, CA (2008).

Vitiello SP, Benedict JW, Padilla-Lopez S, and Pearce DA.  Identification of an Evolutionarily Conserved Protein Interaction with CLN3.  11th International Congress on Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis – Hyatt Regency Hotel, Rochester, NY (2007).

Vitiello SP.  The Case of the Mystery Illness: How Lysosomal pH Affects Enzyme Activity.  Spring teachers’ workshop on case studies – The Life Sciences Learning Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine (2007).

Vitiello SP, Wolfe DM, and Pearce DA.  The Yeast Model of Batten Disease: Characterization of a BTN1 Deletion Strain.  10th International Congress on Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis – Hanasaari Congress Centre, Helinski, Finland (2005).

Phillips S and Butler JS.  Structure-Function Analysis of the Nuclear Exosome Subunit Rrp6p.  Second Annual Buffalo RNA Graduate Spring Forum – University of Buffalo, NY (2002).