The Vosshall Laboratory is interested in the molecular neurobiology of mosquito host-seeking behavior. Female mosquitoes require a blood meal to complete egg development. In carrying out this innate behavior, mosquitoes spread dangerous infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, and yellow fever. Humans attract mosquitoes via multiple sensory cues including emitted body odor, heat, and carbon dioxide in the breath. The mosquito perceives differences in these cues, both between and within species, to determine which animal or human to target for blood-feeding. We have developed CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing in the Aedes aegypti mosquito with the goal of understand how sensory cues are integrated by the female mosquito to lead to host-seeking behavior. Some of the questions we are currently addressing are: Why are some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others? How do insect repellents work? How are multiple sensory cues integrated in the mosquito brain to elicit innate behaviors? How do female mosquitoes select a suitable body of water to lay their eggs?
The long-term goal of all of our work is to understand how behaviors emerge from the integration of sensory input with internal physiological states.
"The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection." Lewis Thomas