University of Nevada Reno
Reno, nv United States
Areas of Expertise:
Aedes aegypti growth and development - General laboratory techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis, qRT-PCR
Lymphatic filariasis (LF), commonly known as elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic filarial worms which are spread by infected mosquitoes taking blood meals required for egg maturation. More than 120 million people in ~70 countries are infected with LF. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers LF a priority in the ‘CDC winnable battles’ to eliminate LF from the Americas. Although drug therapy and mosquito control programs provide adequate control of LF, there are as yet no promising strategies on the horizon for the rise of drug and insecticide resistance in the worm and mosquito, respectively. Therefore, a better understanding of mosquito biology is needed to develop new vector control measures.
We established that insulin-like peptides (ILPs) in Aedes and Culex females regulate important physiological processes through a conserved insulin receptor (IR). Knockdown of the IR by RNA interference (RNAi) disrupts glycogen and lipid storage in sugar-fed females, and disrupts blood digestion and egg maturation in blood fed females. ILP3 expresses in medial neurosectetory cells and specifically binds to the mosquito IR. Preliminary work in India by Dr. Gulia-Nuss showed that the IR knockdown disrupted filarial development in Culex females. We are testing our hypothesis that disruption of IR and insulin signaling in either the mosquito vector or filarial worms will disrupt transmission. We are exploring the potential of RNAi and CRISPR constructs injected into mosquito eggs to disable insulin signaling and to disrupt reproduction. The results of these studies will provide us with testable strategies for vector control and blocking filarial worm transmission in larger laboratory and contained field environments by using transgenic strains or drugs, in sugar baits.