photo: James Gathany
Mosquito Physiological Genetics
The salivary glands of mosquitoes play a number of critical roles in the life of the mosquito and the malaria parasites that can infect them.
Mosquito saliva is a rich mixture of proteins and other compounds, some of which are known to have important roles in preventing blood from coagulating around its mouthparts as it feeds on animals, and to regulate the flow of blood around the feeding site. While the functions of some proteins are well known, most salivary gland proteins have unknown biological functions.
Using the transposon-based technology known as gene-trapping we are undertaking a genetic analysis of the salivary glands of adult female Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes.
We will use this technology to identify genes of interest based on their spatial and temporal patterns of expression.
Often integration of a gene-trap-containing transposon into a gene disables the gene giving one an opportunity to assess the phenotypes of these hypomorph or null mutants.
Our interests are in the roles of targeted genes in blood-feeding and in Plasmodium sporozoite invasion of the salivary gland.
While the blood of insects plays no role in the transport of oxygen it does contain a number of different types of cells that have a variety of biological functions. A major function of insect hemocytes is in combating pathogens and parasites.
The hemocytes of mosquitoes are particularly challenging to study because they are difficult to experimentally manipulate.
We are using transposon-based enhancer-trapping technologies to identify hemocyte-specific enhancers.
We are using these enhancers to express a variety of genes specifically in hemocytes for the purposes of addressing question related to the origin of hemocytes in adults, how the population of hemocytes changes over time and in response to various physiological conditions, and the role of specific genes in immunity-related functions of hemocytes.