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Biological Sciences Profiles

Min Cao

Associate Professor and Undergrad Program Coordinator for Microbiology
Biological Sciences Department

Office: 116 Jordan Hall
Phone: 864-507-7270


 Educational Background

Ph.D. Microbiology
Cornell University 2002

B.S. Biochemistry
East China University of Science and Technology 1994

 Courses Taught

Micr4520/4521 - Advanced Microbiology Lab III
Micr4510/4511 - Advanced Microbiology Lab II
Micr4150/6150 - Microbial Genetics
Micr4250 - Microbial Genetics Lab
Micr4910 - 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)


Min Cao earned her bachelor's degrees in Biochemistry at the East China University of Science and Technology in 1994. She then joined the Department of Microbiology at Cornell University where she studied Bacillus subtilis extracytoplasmic function sigma factors with Dr. John D. Helmann and earned a Ph.D. in 2002. From 2003 to 2006, Dr. Cao worked as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Helene Marquis at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her post-doctoral research was on the genetics and pathogenesis of Listeria monocytogenes. Dr. Cao joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson as an Assistant Professor in 2006 and joined the Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging in 2008. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2013.

 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.


Pederson DB, Dong Y, Blue LB*, Smith SV*, Cao M. (2018) Water-soluble cranberry extract inhibits Vibrio cholerae biofilm formation possibly through modulating the second messenger 3', 5' - cyclic diguanylate level. PLoS ONE 13 (11): e0207056. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207056. [*  Clemson undergraduate student]

Xiao R, Yang X, Li M, Li X, Wei Y, Cao M, Ragauskas A, Thies M, Ding J, Zheng Y. (2018) Investigation of composition, structure and bioactivity of extracellular polymeric substances from original and stress-induced strains of Thraustochytrium striatum. Carbohydrate Polymers 195: 515-524. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2018.04.126.

Wang X, Cao M, Dong Y. (2016) Royal Jelly Promotes DAF-16-mediated Proteostasis to Tolerate β-Amyloid Toxicity in C. elegans Model of Alzheimer's Disease. Oncotarget 7(34):54183-54193. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.10857.

Guo H, Cao M, Zou S, Ye B, Dong Y. (2015) Cranberry extract standardized for proanthocyanidins alleviates β-Amyloid peptide toxicity by improving proteostasis through HSF-1 in Caenorhabditis elegans model of Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv165. Epub 2015 Sep 23.

Wang X, Cook L* , Grasso L* , Cao M, Dong Y. (2015) 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 70(7):827-38. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu120. Epub 2014 Jul 29. [*  Clemson undergraduate student]

Dinh J#, Angeloni JT#, Pederson DB, Wang X, Cao M, Dong Y. (2014) 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. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103290. [# Equal contribution]

Guha S, Natarajan O, Murbach CG* , Dinh J, Wilson EC, Cao M, Zou S, Dong Y. (2014) Supplement timing of cranberry extract plays a key role in promoting Caenorhabditis elegans healthspan. Nutrients 6(2): 911-21. doi: 10.3390/nu6020911. [*  Clemson undergraduate student]

Wang D#, Cao M#, Dinh J, Dong Y. (2013) Methods for creating mutations in C. elegans that extend lifespan. Methods in Molecular Biology 1048: 65-75. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-556-9_6. [# Equal contribution]

Guha S, Klees ML, Wang X, Li J, Dong Y, Cao M. (2013) Influence of planktonic and sessile Listeria monocytogenes on Caenorhabditis elegans. Archives of Microbiology 195(1): 19-26. doi: 10.1007/s00203-012-0841-y. Epub 2012 Sep 9.

Guha S, Cao M, Kane RM* , Savino AM* , Zou S, Dong Y. (2013) The Longevity Effect of Cranberry Extract in Caenorhabditis elegans is Modulated by daf-16 and osr-1. Age 35(5): 1559-74. doi: 10.1007/s11357-012-9459-x. Epub 2012 Aug 4. [*  Clemson undergraduate student]

Zuo S, Guha S, Sun X, Cao M, Wang X, Dong Y. (2012) Nutraceutical interventions for promoting healthy aging in invertebrate models. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2012: 718491. doi:10.1155/2012/718491. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Ouyang Y, Li J, Dong Y, Blakely L* , Cao M. (2012) Genome-wide screening of genes required for Listeria monocytogenes biofilm formation. J Biotech Research 4: 13-25. [*  Clemson undergraduate student]

Alonzo F 3rd, Port GC, Cao M, Freitag NE. (2009) The posttranslocation chaperone PrsA2 contributes to multiple facets of Listeria monocytogenes pathogenesis. Infect Immun 77(7): 2612-23. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00280-09. Epub 2009 May 18.

Bitar AP, Cao M, Marquis H. (2008) The metalloprotease of Listeria monocytogenes is activated by intramolecular autocatalysis. J. Bacteriol 190(1): 107-111. doi: 10.1128/JB.00852-07. Epub 2007 Oct 26.


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