About the group
We are interested in understanding numerous aspects of reproduction in mosquito vectors of human disease. Currently, our attention is focused on three mosquito species: Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus, the primary vectors of numerous arboviruses that impact human health (including the dengue, chikungunya, and zika viruses) as well as Anopheles albimanus, a major vector of Malaria in Colombia.
Reproduction is a complex process that involves both a physical interaction between individuals and a molecular interaction between molecules originating from individuals of the opposite sex. A series of behavioral interactions begin during courtship and continue through copulation. Once males and females depart, a molecular interaction continues inside the female between female-specific molecules and substances transferred by males during copulation—sperm, seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) and other small molecules.
Mating induces physiological and behavioral changes in females—collectively referred to as the female post-mating response—that facilitate the production of progeny. In mosquitoes, the female post-mating response includes an increase in host-seeking behaviors, the consumption of a blood-meal, an increase in the rate of egg development, the induction of egg-laying, and an increase in female longevity. Mating also decreases the likelihood that females will re-mate again in their lifetime. These post-mating changes are induced by the receipt of SFPs but may also be influenced by numerous environmental factors.
An additional physiological process mediated by SFPs is the storage of sperm in the female reproductive tract. Once transferred to the females, sperm are stored in specialized organs until they are released to fertilize eggs. Sperm storage is a universal process in species with internal fertilization and is required for fertility. Molecules that mediate sperm storage, such as SFPs and female-specific proteins are key players in fertility and offer potential targets to impact mosquito fertility. However, SFPs and other molecules that mediate female the post-mating responses have not been defined in Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus and Anopheles albimanus.
We aim to understand how SFPs, female-specific molecules, and environmental factors influence the fertility of these mosquito vectors. We would like to elucidate sperm storage parameters in mosquitoes and determine how SFPs regulate this important process. As most research has focused on male-derived SFPs in insect fertility, we would like to identify female-specific proteins essential for optimal fertility in mosquitoes. We are also interested in examining how environmental factors, such as the microbiota composition of various tissues, influence the female post-mating response. Finally, we are examining precopulatory behaviors important in successful Anopheles albimanus copuation.
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