I am a doctoral student in the DeGennaro Lab. I received my B.S in Biology from Florida International University. I am interested in genetics, molecular biology, and its applications to controlling mosquito borne diseases.
Mosquitoes of both genders use nectar-feeding sources to meet metabolic needs that require carbohydrates and lipids. This nutrients are necessary for mating, egg development, flying, and other aspects. Females of species like Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae, vectors to dengue fever and malaria, respectively, are more threatening to humans when deprived from nectar sources because they increase their blood feeding frequency to compensate for the lack of sugar reserves. Longevity is significantly increased when sugar is available. Males of most species usually die within the first 2-3 days if they do not have access to a nectar meal, suggesting that they likely have evolved to have efficient pathways that allow them to readily recognize a potential flower host. Olfactory receptors and vision are both responsible for detection of luring plants. Upon landing, gustatory receptors (Grs) determine the final decision to feed. The remarkable variability in the flower volatiles that can attract mosquitoes makes it challenging to identify unique chemicals that activate this mechanism, but it also opens the possibility to test different blends that can potentially be used for vector control strategies to reduce the population of dangerous species.
This study aims to better understand nectar-seeking behavior using a molecular genetics approach by testing olfactory receptor mutants in a variety behavioral assays. Our goal is to understand the molecular and cellular basis of the integration of nectar-seeking cues.
My research also focuses on developing and optimizing genetic tools to manipulate Aedes aegypti olfactory receptor neurons to reveal new aspects of mosquito plant and animal host detection.