Min Cao

Associate Professor

Contact Information

Room 151B LSF
Phone: 864-507-7270
FAX: 864-656-0435
Email: mcao@clemson.edu


  • Post-doctoral Fellow, Cornell University-College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Ph.D. in Microbiology, Cornell University
  • B.S. in Biochemistry, East China University of Science and Technology

Research Interests

Research in our lab is focused on bacterial biofilm formation. We primarily work with two pathogens, Listeria monocytogenes and Vibrio cholerae. Our goals are to understand the mechanisms involved in biofilm formation and to develop natural compounds (as an alternative to antibiotic treatment) to control bacterial biofilm and pathogenesis.

I. Molecular mechanisms of Listeria  monocytogenes biofilm formation.

The capability of L. monocytogenes biofilm formation on various materials and the differences among a variety of isolates has been studied in several labs, yet the molecular bases of biofilm formation still remain limited. To comprehensively understand the molecular basis of L. monocytogenes biofilm formation, we used transposon mutagenesis to screen genes that may be involved in this process.  Using this tool, we have screened more than 10,000 mutants from 50 independent libraries and identified 16 mutants with at least 3-fold decrease of biofilm formation. All 16 mutants have been further confirmed and the transposon insertion sites have been sequenced. Future studies will aim at defining at the molecular and biochemical levels the specific roles of these factors in the process of L. monocytogenes biofilm formation.

II. The antimicrobial or anti-pathogenic effects of nutraceuticals.

Nutraceuticals made from various edibles contain a significant amount of functional compounds with diverse biological activities including antimicrobial, antivirus, anti-mutagenesis, and anti-oxidation activities. We are currently investigating several natural food extracts for their potential anti-adhesion and anti-pathogenic effects on Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera.



Selected Publications

  1. Dong Y., Guha S., Sun X., Cao M., Wang X., Zou S. (2012) Nutraceutical interventions for promoting healty agin in invertebrate models.  Oxid Med Cell Longev.  2012:718491.  Epub 2012 Sep. 6.
  2. Guha S., Klees M., Wang X., Li J., Dong Y., Cao M. (2013) Influence of planktonic and sessile Listeria monocytogenes on Caenorhabditis elegans.  Arch Microbiol.  2013 Jan; 195(1):19-26. doi: 10.1007/s00203-012-0841-y.  Epub 2012 Sep. 9.
  3. Guha, S., Cao, M., Kane, R.M., Savino, A.M., Zou, S., and Dong, Y. (2012) The longevity effect of cranberry extract in Caenorhabditis elegans is modulated by daf-16 and osr-1. Age. DOI 10.1007/s11357-012-9459-x.
  4. Ouyang, Y., Li, J., Dong, Y., Blakely L.V., and Cao, M. (2012) Genome-wide screening of genes required for Listeria monocytogenes biofilm formation. J Biotech Research, 4: 13-25.
  5. Alonzo, F. 3rd, Port, G.C, Cao, M., and Freitag, N.E. (2009) The posttranslocation chaperone PrsA2 contributes to multiple facets of Listeria monocytogenes pathogenesis. Infect Immun, 77(7):2612-23.
  6. Alan P. Bitar, Cao, M., and Marquis, H. (2008) The Metalloprotease of Listeria monocytogenes is Activated by Intramolecular Autocatalysis. J Bacteriol, 190(1):107-11.
  7. Cao, M., Bitar, A.P., and Marquis, H. (2007) A mariner-based transposition system for Listeria monocytogenes. Appl. Environ. Microbiol, 73(8):2758-2761.
  8. Cao, M., Moore, C.M., and Helmann, J. D. (2005) Bacillus subtilis paraquat resistance Is directed by SigmaM, an extracytoplasmic function sigma factor, and is conferred by YqjL and BcrC. J Bacteriol, 187(9):2948-2956.
  9. Cao, M. and Helmann, J. D. (2004) The Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function Sigma X factor regulates modification of the cell envelope and resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides. J Bacteriol, 186(4):1136-1146.
  10. Gaballa, A., Cao, M., and Helmann, J.D. (2003) Two MerR homologues that affect copper induction of the Bacillus subtilis copZA operon. Microbiology, 149:3413-3421.
  11. Cao, M., Salzberg, L., Tsai, C. S., Thorsten, M., Bonilla, C., Wang, T., Ye, R. W., Marquez-Magana, L., and Helmann, J. D. (2003) Regulation of the Bacillus subtilis Extracytoplasmic Function Protein Sigma Y and Its Target Promoters. J Bacteriol, 185(16): 4883-4890.
  12. Cao, M. and Helmann, J. D. (2002) Regulation of the Bacillus subtilis bcrC bacitracin resistance gene by two ECF sigma factors. J. Bacteriol, 184(22): 6123-6129.
  13. Cao, M., Wang, T., Ye, R. W., and Helmann, J. D. (2002) Antibiotics that inhibit cell wall biosynthesis induce expression of the Bacillus subtilis Sigma W and Sigma M regulons. Mol. Microbiol, 45(5): 1267-1276.
  14. Cao, M., Kobel, P.A., Morshedi, M.M., Wu, M.F.W., Paddon, C., and Helmann, J.D. (2002) Defining the Bacillus subtilis Sigma W regulon: a comparative analysis of promoter consensus search, run-off transcription / macroarray analysis (ROMA), and transcriptional profiling approaches. J. Mol.Biol, 316: 443-457.
  15. Cao, M., Bernat, B.A., Wang, Z., Armstrong, R.N., Helmann, J.D. (2001) FosB, a cysteine-dependent fosfomycin resistance protein under the control of Sigma W, an extracytoplasmic-function sigma factor in Bacillus subtilis. J. Bacteriol, 183(7): 2380-2383.
  16. Huang, X., Gaballa, A., Cao, M., Helmann J.D. (1999) Identification of target promoters for the Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function sigma factor, sigma W. Mol Microbiol, 31(1):361-71.  

Recent Courses

  • Micro 415/H415/615 - Microbial Genetics
  • Micro 425 – Microbial Genetics Lab
  • Micro 491/H491 - Undergraduate Research in Microbiology
  • Micro 494/Biosc494 - Creative Inquiry course
  • Micro 807 - Current Topics in Microbiology
  • Micro 825 - Global Gene Regulation of Bacterial Stress Response
  • Biosc 812 - Graduate Seminar
  • Micro 101 - Microbes and Human affairs (Guest Lecture)
  • Micro 493 - Senior Seminar

Current Lab Members

  • Miranda Klees (graduate student)
  • Daniel Pederson (graduate student)
  • Jessica Dinh (lab technician)
  • Joseph Angeloni (graduate student)
  • Ethan Wilson (prospective graduate student)

Former Lab Members

  • Yong Ouyang (M.S. Microbiology, 2010)
  • Jing Li (M.S. Microbiology, 2011)
  • Dongmei Liu, Ph.D. (visiting scholar)
  • Linda M. Parsons, Ph.D. (Adjunct Professor)
  • Lauren Blakely (B.S. Microbiology, 2012)
  • Logan Roof (B.S. Microbiology, 2012)
  • Sara V. Smith (undergraduate in Microbiology)

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Microbiology (ASM)
  • American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS)