Neural and molecular rules of mosquito olfactory rhythms
The ability of mosquitoes to detect, process, and respond to olfactory information emitted by their hosts can affect disease transmission. The magnitude of their responses to host and plant odors varies drastically throughout the day, but, despite their clear epidemiological relevance, the neural and molecular mechanisms acting at the circuit levels to control mosquito behavior remain to be determined.
In the lab, we employ an interdisciplinary approach combining behavioral assays, electrophysiological recordings, transcriptomic analysis, and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, to characterize rhythms in odorant detection, perception, and olfactory behavior, thereby identifying the genetic basis of the temporal plasticity in mosquito-host interactions.
For disease vector insects, the host plays the double of prey and predator. There is therefore a strong selective pressure for vectors to select hosts that are the least defensive and easiest to feed on. However, there is a lack of understanding of how mosquitoes achieve this.
We rely on a multidisciplinary approach that combines tools from neuro-ethology, molecular biology, and chemical ecology to better understand this phenomenon, as such investigations could potentially reveal targets of opportunity for disease vector control.
Mosquito chemical ecology
To find hosts or plants to feed on, mosquitoes largely rely on their sense of olfaction. While significant advances have been made to decipher the neural and molecular mechanisms of mosquito olfaction, significant knowledge gaps remain to be bridged.
In the lab, we use analytical chemistry methods (Gas-Chromatography Mass-Spectrometry) as well as electrophysiological and behavioral approaches to understand how mosquitoes deal with ubiquitous chemical cues in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.