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

I. Bacteria, host, and inter-kingdom communications.  It is well known that bacteria have social behaviors just like the higher organisms. They use special "languages" to talk to each other and make group decisions. The "languages" (or signaling molecules) are small chemical compounds, such as auto-inducers and secondary metabolites, produced and secreted by the bacterial cells. Noticeably, emerging evidence suggested that these signaling molecules mediated communications are not only restricted among bacterial cells, but also extend to host. This inter-kingdom communication is not merely an interesting phenomenon, but also a starting point to investigate host and bacteria interactions from a novel angle. As we all know now that the human body is home to trillions of microbes. How could a human body distinguish commensal microbes which are beneficial to our health from disease-causing pathogens? Do these two opposite groups of microbes send distinctive signals to the environment which can be sensed and distinguished by the host? And, if such signals do exist, would pathogenic microbes take advantage of the “good signals” to fool the host? Furthermore, what mechanisms are used by the host to recognize different signals? These are some fundamental questions, which integrate microbiology, immunology, and neurology, yet to be answered. We have established a simple bacteria-host communication system by employing Caenorhabditis elegans to investigate the communications between bacteria and higher organisms and wish to set up the foundation to answer these questions.

II. The effects of nutraceuticals and probiotics on health. An increasing body of evidence revealed that supplementation of nutraceuticals and probiotics could dramatically promote human health. Considering that the commensal microbes are a major health determinant, we speculate that both nutraceuticals made from various edibles and live probiotics may help to maintain or create a “good” microbial society in animals. As an extension of the first project, we use Caenorhabditis elegans as a model to investigate “How do nutraceuticals and probiotics work in the body?” Specifically, we want to study whether supplementation of nutraceuticals or probiotics would affect communications among bacteria as well as the interactions between bacteria and their host.


Selected Publications

  1. Wang X, Cook L, Grasso L, Cao M, Dong Y. “Royal jelly-mediated prolongevity in Caenorhabditis elegans is modulated by the interplays of DAF-16, SIR-2.1, HCF-1, and 14-3-3 Proteins.” Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. (2014) Jul 29. pii: glu120. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Dinh J§, Angeloni JT§, Pederson DB, Wang X, Cao M*, Dong Y*. “Cranberry extract standardized for proanthocyanidins promotes the immune response of Caenorhabditis elegans to Vibrio cholerae through the p38 MAPK pathway and HSF-1.” PLOS ONE. 9(7): e103290 (2014).
  3. Guha S, Natarajan O, Murbach CG, Dinh J, Wilson EC, Cao M, Zou S, Dong Y. “Supplement timing of cranberry extract plays a key role in promoting Caenorhabditis elegans healthspan.” Nutrients. 6(2): 911-21 (2014).
  4. Wang D§, Cao M§, Dinh J, Dong Y. “Methods for creating mutations in C. elegans that extend lifespan.” Methods in Molecular Biology. 1048: 65-75 (2013).
  5. Dong Y, Guha S, Sun X, Cao M, Wang X, Zou S. “Nutraceutical interventions for promoting healthy aging in invertebrate models." Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2012: 718491 (2012). (Epub 2012 Sep 6). Review.
  6. Guha S, Klees ML, Wang X, Li J, Dong Y*, Cao M*. “Influence of planktonic and sessile Listeria monocytogenes on Caenorhabditis elegans.Archives of Microbiology. 195(1): 19-26 (2013). (Epub 2012 Sep 9).
  7. Guha S, Cao M, Kane RM, Savino AM, Zou S, Dong Y. “The Longevity Effect of Cranberry Extract in Caenorhabditis elegans is Modulated by daf-16 and osr-1.” Age. 35(5): 1559-74 (2013). (Epub 2012 Aug 4).
  8. Ouyang Y, Li J, Dong Y, Blakely L, Cao M*. “Genome-wide screening of genes required for Listeria monocytogenes biofilm formation.” J Biotech Research. 4: 13-25 (2012).
  9. Alonzo F 3rd, Port GC, Cao M, Freitag NE. “The Posttranslocation Chaperone PrsA2 Contributes to Multiple Facets of Listeria monocytogenes Pathogenesis.” Infect Immun. 77(7): 2612-23 (2009).
  10. Bitar AP, Cao M, Marquis H. “The Metalloprotease of Listeria monocytogenes is Activated by Intramolecular Autocatalysis.” J. Bacteriol, 190(1): 107-111 (2008).
  11. Cao M, Bitar AP, Marquis H. “A mariner-Based Transposition System for Listeria monocytogenes.” Appl Environ Microbiol, 73(8): 2758-61 (2007).
  12. Cao M, Moore CM, Helmann JD. “Bacillus subtilis Paraquat Resistance Is Directed by σM, an Extracytoplasmic Function Sigma Factor, and Is Conferred by YqjL and BcrC.”  J. Bacteriol, 187(9): 2948-2956 (2005).
  13. Cao M, Helmann JD. “The Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function σX factor regulates modification of the cell envelope and resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides.” J. Bacteriol, 186(4): 1136-1146 (2004).
  14. Gaballa A, Cao M, Helmann JD. “Two MerR homologues that affect copper induction of the Bacillus subtilis copZA operon.” Microbiology, 149: 3413-3421 (2003).
  15. Cao M, Salzberg L, Tsai CS, Thorsten M, Bonilla C, Wang T, Ye RW, Marquez-Magana L, Helmann JD. “Regulation of the Bacillus subtilis Extracytoplasmic Function Protein σY and Its Target Promoters.” J. Bacteriol, 185(16): 4883-4890 (2003).
  16. Cao M, Helmann JD. “Regulation of the Bacillus subtilis bcrC bacitracin resistance gene by two ECF σ factors.”  J. Bacteriol, 184(22): 6123-6129 (2002).
  17. Cao M, Wang T, Ye RW, Helmann JD. “Antibiotics that inhibit cell wall biosynthesis induce expression of the Bacillus subtilis σW and σM regulons.” Mol. Microbiol, 45(5): 1267-1276 (2002).
  18. Cao M, Kobel PA, Morshedi MM, Wu MFW, Paddon C, Helmann JD. “Defining the Bacillus subtilis σW regulon: a comparative analysis of promoter consensus search, run-off transcription / macroarray analysis (ROMA), and transcriptional profiling approaches.” J. Mol. Biol, 316: 443-457 (2002).
  19. Cao M, Bernat BA, Wang Z, Armstrong RN, Helmann JD. “FosB, a cysteine-dependent fosfomycin resistance protein under the control of σW, an extracytoplasmic-function sigma factor in Bacillus subtilis. J. Bacteriol, 183: 2380-2383 (2001).
  20. Huang X, Gaballa A, Cao M, Helmann JD. “Identification of target promoters for the Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function s factor, σW.” Mol. Microbiol, 31: 361-371 (1999).
Clemson undergraduate student.
* Corresponding author.
§ Equal contribution.

Recent Courses

  • Micr4150/H4150/6150 - Microbial Genetics
  • Micr4250 - Microbial Genetics Lab
  • Micr4910/H4910 - Undergraduate Research in Microbiology
  • Micr4930 - Senior Seminar
  • Micr4940/Biol4940 - Creative Inquiry course
  • Micr8070 - Current Topics in Microbiology
  • Micr8250 - Global Gene Regulation of Bacterial Stress Response
  • Biol2000 - Biology in the News
  • Biol8120 - Graduate Seminar
  • Micr1010 - Microbes and Human affairs (Guest Lecture)

Current Lab Members

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

Professional Affiliations

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