Mosquitoes are dangerous disease vectors that transmit global infectious disease. Aedes
albopictus (Ae. albopictus), also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is a highly adaptive and
aggressive disease vector that has rapidly invaded every continent on earth except Antarctica.
Mosquitoes use chemical cues to guide behaviors such as finding a host, biting, and egg-laying.
Improved understanding of mosquito chemoreception may greatly facilitate the development of
new means of vector control. Efforts have been made to understand olfaction in mosquitoes, but
remarkably little is known about their sense of taste. In particular, virtually nothing is known about
taste in Ae. albopictus, a disease vector now in the US whose global range is fast growing
because it outcompetes other species and because of climate change.
Here I propose a multidisciplinary approach using electrophysiology, molecular
genetics, and behavioral analysis to investigate the mechanisms of taste in Ae. albopictus.
I will elucidate basic principles of taste coding in this species, and I will systematically screen for
taste compounds that evoke strong electrophysiological and behavioral responses. I will map the
expression of taste receptors to taste organs of males and females and describe the dependence
of their expression on feeding status. I will functionally test the genetic basis of taste reception by
generating transgenic CRISPR mutant mosquitoes. I hypothesize that Ae. albopictus uses
taste cues to guide critical behaviors such as feeding and oviposition. Some of these
tastants may serve as cues in the identification of hosts. This study may also identify
chemosensory cues that are useful in controlling Ae. albopictus and the diseases it transmits.