Areas of Expertise:
Entomology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology
Manduca sexta, Tribolium castaneum
I’m interested in exploring how insects make their cuticle (exoskeleton). My main focus is on the proteins present in the cuticle and how they differ between cuticle that is hard versus cuticle that is flexible. I am also interested on how these cuticular proteins may be cross-linked together to help stabilize the cuticle (a process known as sclerotization). One important enzyme in this process is laccase, a member of the multicopper oxidase (MCO) family. Many insects have multiple MCO genes and their physiological functions are unknown but likely extend beyond sclerotization. Understanding how the insect cuticle is made may lead to the development of novel biomimetic materials with applications in the medical and materials industries.