The research activities planned for the AnoRep project required the involvement of qualified research staff to carry out the planned experimental activities. The team includes postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and research assistants.

Principal Investigator

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Prof.ssa Flaminia Catteruccia (PI), Associate Professor, University of Perugia, Italy

Her main research focus is the study of the molecular basis of mating and reproduction in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the major malaria vectors. Her research aims at answering basic biological questions on the factors and mechanisms shaping fertility in mosquitoes, as well as developing new tools for vector control programs.

Dr. Catteruccia trained as a molecular entomologist at Imperial College London, where she achieved the first genetic manipulation of Anopheles mosquitoes. She has contributed to the generation of a number of tools for molecular and genetic studies in mosquitoes, to aid the implementation of genetic strategies for vector control. These tools include the development of a genetic sexing mechanism for the automated separation of male from female mosquitoes at the larval stage, and the validation of RNA interference for functional studies. Her work includes field studies in a number of African countries to confirm and expand the laboratory findings of her research group.

Postdoctoral fellows

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Dr Matthew Pierce (Postdoctoral researcher), University of Perugia, Italy

Matthew Pierce is a postdoctoral researcher in Catteruccia lab. Copulation in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes involves the transfer of material including sperm, and the ecdysteroid hormone, 20E, from the male to the female which results in a complex of physiological (e.g. egg laying) and behavioural (e.g. refractoriness to further mating) changes collectively termed the post-mating response. While 20E acting through its receptors, ecdysone receptor and Ultraspiracle, are clearly important drivers of aspects of the post mating response, almost nothing is known about the contribution of other signalling pathways. His work attempts to characterise the hierarchy of signalling pathways that together drive the post mating response with the rationale that a better understanding of these signalling networks may yield novel targets for vector control.

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Dr Evdoxia Kakani (Postdoctoral researcher), University of Perugia, Italy

Dr Kakani is currently working as postdoctoral researcher and her research activities have been focused on: the analysis of the role of transcription factors in the formation of the glands and in the expression of MAG secretion in An.gambiae, the establishment of the role of glands in controlling female behavior, the analysis of the role of the MAG lipidic components and small peptide hormones in mosquito fertility, the identification of factors that interfere with mosquito reproduction, to aid the development of sterilizing agents able to interfere with sperm storage and function, and egg development and laying.

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Dr Douglas Paton (Postdoctoral researcher), University of Perugia, Italy

Graduate students

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Eleonora Teodori (PhD student), University of Perugia, Italy

Eleonora Teodori completed her PhD under the supervision of Dr Catteruccia (final discussion scheduled in February 2015). Her main project consists in understanding the role of HPX15, a peroxidase involved in oxidative stress response, in the fertility of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, the major malaria vector. She has recently published a study providing the first identification of the cellular components and molecular mechanisms utilized by An. gambiae females to maximize their fertility. Her work shows that the mating–induced heme peroxidase HPX15 is an important factor in long-term fertility, and demonstrates that its function is required during multiple gonotrophic cycles.

Moreover she is also assessing the role of the Insulin like peptides cascade in the Anopheles gambiae female. Her preliminary studies suggested that mosquito fecundity increased in mated females fed with the blood of T2DM patients compared to healthy donors.

 

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Aurelio Serrao (PhD student), University of Perugia, Italy

Aurelio Serrao is enrolled in the PhD program and is involved in the manipulation of mosquito reproductive success in the field. The research activities were focused on the identification of factors that interfere with mosquito reproduction, to aid the development of sterilizing agents able to interfere with 1) sperm storage and function, and 2) egg development and laying.

 

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Enzo Mameli (PhD student), University of Perugia, Italy

Enzo Mameli is enrolled in the PhD program and his work is focused on the identification and characterization of transcription factors involved in male accessory gland (MAG) development and physiology. The characterization of these transcription factors aims to unravel the complex protein expression network in MAGs and to identify single protein components of the male secretions important in shaping the female post-mating behavior and reproductive success. The identification of male factors critical for reproductive success in An.gambiae can widen the available spectrum of targets suitable for vector control techniques.

Research assistant

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Francesca Mancini (Research assistant), University of Perugia, Italy

Francesca Mancini is working as research assistant and is collaborating to the research activities of objective 2 focused on the identification of factors and processes involved in sperm viability and function.

Former members

Dr Paolo Gabrieli (Postdoctoral researcher)