Markus Thali, Ph.D.


Training & Education

Dr. Thali received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Zürich, Switzerland in 1990. He did postdoctoral research with Joseph Sodroski at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School and he was an Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne before he joined the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics late in 1999. 

Research Interests

Overall, my group is interested in understanding how information (genetic, biochemical) can be transmitted from cell to cell and how such information flow determines the fate of cells, tissues, and ultimately organisms. Recently, we have become particularly interested in the phenomenon that merging of cells (i.e. cell-cell fusion) can result in altered cell states.

The main object of our studies is the retrovirus HIV-1, though we also support investigations by colleagues who study other viruses or extracellular vesicles that serve as information carriers. Importantly, in all our projects we collaborate more or less extensively with other scientists, both on campus and at other institutions, thus forming transient alliances to tackle emerging questions. For example, together with Dr. Elizabeth Bonney at UVM’s OBGYN and Reproductive Sciences department, we are currently studying how tetraspanins control trophoblast fusion, thus securing normal placenta development during pregnancy. 

While we use various virological and cell biological techniques for our investigations, particular emphasis is being placed on applying quantitative imaging methods. These include restoration fluorescence microscopy and super resolution microscopy for analyses of subcellular events and light sheet microscopy for analyses at the cell population level (with single cell resolution). Using such methods, we recently found that HIV-induced small T lymphocyte syncytia are a subpopulation of infected cells that have distinct surface protein profiles as well as migratory properties that distinguish them from infected mononucleated T cells. A major thrust of our current work thus aims at understanding what role this subpopulation of HIV-1-infected cells plays in virus spread. 

Featured Publications

Kinahan MW, Thali M, Symeonides M. Migrate3D: Software for simplified post-tracking analysis of 3D and 2D cell migration data. Posted on Research Square, January 2023:

Whitaker EE, Matheson NJ, Perlee S, Munson PB, Symeonides M, Thali M.  EWI-2 inhibits cell-cell fusion at the HIV-1 virological presynapse.  Viruses. 2019, 11, 1082.

Ikeda T, Symeonides M, Albin JS, Li M, Thali M, Harris RS. 2018. HIV-1 adaptation studies reveal a novel Env-mediated homeostasis mechanism for evading lethal hypermutation by APOBEC3G. PLoS Pathog 14:e1007010.

Symeonides M, Murooka TT, Bellfy LN, Roy NH, Mempel TR, Thali M. 2015. HIV-1-induced small T cell syncytia can transfer virus particles to target cells through transient contacts. Viruses 7:6590-6603.

All Thali publications

Markus Thali  In a dark jacket, smiling, standing in a hallway with glass wall behind him

Lab Team

Markus Thali, PhD, Professor

Menelaos (Mel) Symeonides, PhD, Assistant Professor

Madeline Carr, Lab Technician

Jon Girard, PhD Student

Keegan Smith, Masters Student

Emily Mynar, Undergraduate Student

Samantha Tafrate, Undergraduate Student

Christen Frandina, Undergraduate Student

Tatum Cubrilovic, Undergraduate Student

Contact Information

Office: 318B Stafford

Phone: 802-656-1056