Conor McMeniman, PhD, studies the molecular and cellular basis of mosquito attraction to humans.
malaria, dengue, chikungunya, zika, Anopheles gambiae, Aedes aegypti, genome-editing, chemosensation, olfaction, neurogenetics, neurobiology, neural circuits, vector behavior, host-pathogen interactions, microbiome
Experiences & Accomplishments
The African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae and yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti are dangerous vectors for blood-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya and zika, because of an innate preference of these mosquito species to blood-feed on humans. Mosquitoes are largely thought to target humans using their keen sense of smell. Given this relationship, identifying the chemosensory cues and neural circuits that act in concert to guide these mosquito species toward humans, as well as the associated impact of pathogen infection on this process, may help to devise powerful strategies that halt pathogen transmission.
To gain insight into the neurobiology of vector-borne disease transmission, our research is currently centered around three specific aims:
1. Identifying mosquito receptors and active volatile odorants that drive mosquito attraction towards humans
2. Characterizing patterns of odor-evoked activity in the mosquito brain in response to the scent of infected and uninfected humans from disease endemic regions
3. Determining the influence of Plasmodium falciparum and dengue virus infection on mosquito olfactory perception and behavior
We employ integrative approaches including GC/MS, two-photon imaging and genome-editing technology to elucidate how host volatiles are perceived by the mosquito nervous system, and how this olfactory percept is altered by changes in internal physiological state during pathogen infection.
By studying how the mosquito nervous system detects and encodes human odor, and how pathogens themselves manipulate this process, our research aims to provide a global view of the odors, genes, and neural circuits that allow mosquitoes to find humans. We aim to develop innovative strategies which lure or repel mosquitoes, and potentially other anthropophilic disease vectors, away from humans to stop them transmitting vector-borne diseases.
Selected publications from the last 10 years:
McMeniman CJ, Corfas RA, Matthews BJ, Ritchie SA, Vosshall LB. (2014) Multimodal integration of CO2 and other sensory cues drives mosquito attraction to humans. Cell 156: 1060-71. PubMed PMID: 24581501.
Walker T, Johnson PH, Moreira LA, Iturbe-Ormaetxe I, Frentiu FD, McMeniman CJ, Leong YS, Dong Y, Axford J, Kriesner P, Lloyd AL, Ritchie SA, O'Neill SL, Hoffmann AA. (2011) The wMel Wolbachia strain blocks dengue and invades caged Aedes aegypti populations. Nature 476: 450-3. PubMed PMID: 21866159.
McMeniman CJ, Lane RV, Cass BN, Fong AW, Sidhu M, Wang YF, O'Neill SL. (2009) Stable introduction of a life-shortening Wolbachia infection into the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Science 323: 141-4. PubMed PMID: 19119237.
McMeniman CJ, Lane AM, Fong AW, Voronin DA, Iturbe-Ormaetxe I, Yamada R, McGraw EA, O'Neill SL. (2008) Host adaptation of a Wolbachia strain after long-term serial passage in mosquito cell lines. Appl Environ Microbiol 74: 6963-9. PubMed PMID: 18836024.