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Laboratory of Insect Evolutionary Biology

Insect Evolutionary Biology

Referents: Prof. Ludvik Gomulski, Prof. Anna Malacrida (Contract Professor), Prof. Giuliano Gasperi (Contract Professor)

Co-workers: Giulia Fiorenza


Main lines of research:

i. Genome sequencing and annotation to identify genes related to reproduction and chemoreception.

These studies were performed within the following International scientific consortia:

  • The Mediterranean fruitfly, Ceratitis capitata (joint project involving Baylor College of Medicine, Human Genome Sequencing Center, US Department of Agriculture and the University of Pavia) and the i5K initiative;
  • The Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus (Italian Rimini strain) (as part of EC-FP7 Infrastructure - INFRAVEC coordinated by Imperial College London);
  • 5 species of Tsetse flies, Glossina spp. (IGGI Consortium, coordinated by Yale University).

Relevant Publications:

  • Comparative genomic analysis of six Glossina genomes, vectors of African trypanosomes. Genome Biology (2019) 20: 187. doi: 10.1186/s13059-019-1768-2.
  • The whole genome sequence of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), reveals insights into the biology and adaptive evolution of a highly invasive pest species. Genome Biology (2016) 17: 192. doi: 10.1186/s13059-016-1049-2.
  • A draft genome sequence of an invasive mosquito: an Italian Aedes albopictus. Pathogens and Global Health (2015) 109: 207-220. doi:10.1179/2047773215Y.0000000031.
  • Genome sequence of the tsetse fly (Glossina morsitans): vector of African trypanosomiasis. Science (2014) 344:380-386. doi: 10.1126/science.1249656.


ii. Functional genomics, proteomics and metabolomics of reproductive processes

RNAseq, microarray, proteomics and RNA interference approaches are applied to identify genes and proteins implicated in sexual maturation and mating of different insects. This line of research has significant implications for the development of control strategies.

Relevant publications:

  • Viviparity and habitat restrictions may influence the evolution of male reproductive genes in tsetse fly (Glossina) species. BMC Biology (2021) 19: 211. doi:10.1186/s12915-021-01148-4.
  • Transcribed sex-specific markers on the Y chromosome of the oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis. BMC Genetics (2020) 21: 125-136. doi: 10.1186/s12863-020-00938-z.
  • The Nix locus on the male-specific homologue of chromosome 1 in Aedes albopictus is a strong candidate for a male-determining factor. Parasites & Vectors (2018) 11(Suppl 2): 647. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-3215-8.
  • Symbiotic microbes affect the expression of male reproductive genes in Glossina m. morsitans. BMC Microbiology (2018) 18(Suppl 1): 169. doi: 10.1186/s12866-018-1289-2.
  • Sperm-less males modulate female behaviour in Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae). Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2016) 79: 13-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.10.002.
  • The spermatophore in Glossina morsitans morsitans: insights into male contributions to reproduction. Scientific Reports (2016) 6: 20334. doi: 10.1038/srep20334.
  • Polyandry in the medfly - shifts in paternity mediated by sperm stratification and mixing. BMC Genetics (2014) 15(Suppl 2): S10. doi: 10.1186/1471-2156-15-S2-S10.
  • Transcriptional profiles of mating-responsive genes from testes and male accessory glands of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata. PLoS ONE (2012) 7(10): e46812. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046812.
  • Transcriptome profiling of sexual maturation and mating in the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata. PLoS ONE (2012) 7(1): e30857. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030857.


iii. Chemoreception studies

The genes and proteins involved in chemoreception are being studied in a number of insect species of medical and economic importance. For such analyses, an integrated approach of functional genomics, proteomics, structural biology and behaviour is used. This line of research has significant implications for the development of repellents and attractants.

Relevant publications:

  • Behavioural responses of male Aedes albopictus to different volatile chemical compounds. Insects (2022) 13: 290. doi: 10.3390/insects13030290.
  • Electrophysiological responses of the mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, to the Cera Trap® lure: exploring released antennally-active compounds. J Chem Ecol. doi: 10.1007/s10886-021-01254-1.
  • Transcriptional variation of sensory-related genes in natural populations of Aedes albopictus. BMC Genomics (2020) 21:547. doi: 10.1186/s12864-020-06956-6.
  • Structural and biochemical evaluation of Ceratitis capitata odorant-binding protein 22 affinity for odorants involved in intersex communication. Insect Molecular Biology (2019) 28: 431-443. doi: 10.1111/imb.12559.
  • Larval diet affects male pheromone blend in a laboratory strain of the medfly, Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology (2018) 44: 339-353. doi: 10.1007/s10886-018-0939-z.
  • Genetic Control by trapping. In: Curtis CF (Ed) Appropriate Technology in Vector Control. CRC press. (2018) pp. 159-172. doi: 10.1201/9781351069823.
  • Identification of pheromone components and their binding affinity to the odorant binding protein CcapOBP83a-2 of the mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2014) 48: 51-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.02.005.
  • Sniffing out chemosensory genes from the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata. PLoS ONE (2014) 9(1):e85523. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085523.


iv. Origins and diffusion of the Tiger mosquito and fruitfly species

High resolution molecular markers, such as microsatellites, ribosomal ITS2 and SNPs were developed for the Asian Tiger mosquito, Ae. albopictus, the Mediterranean fruitfly, Ceratitis capitata and other fruitfly species. These markers were used to study the genetic relationships between ancestral and derived populations and to characterize their invasion processes.

Relevant publications:

  • Vector competence of Aedes albopictus populations for chikungunya virus is shaped by their demographic history. Comunications in Biology (2020) 3: 326. doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-1046-6.
  • Estimating the risk of arbovirus transmission in Southern Europe using vector competence data. Scientific Reports (2019) 28: 17852. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54395-5.
  • Genetic evidence for a world-wide chaotic dispersion pattern of the arbovirus vector, Aedes albopictus. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2017) 11: e0005332. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005332.
  • The worldwide spread of the Tiger mosquito as revealed by mitogenome haplogroup diversity. Frontiers in Genetics (2016) 7: 208. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2016.00208.
  • Relevant genetic differentiation among Brazilian populations of Anastrepha fraterculus (Diptera, Tephritidae). Zookeys (2015) 540: 157. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.540.6713.
  • Molecular markers for analyses of intraspecific genetic diversity in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. Parasites & Vectors (2015) 8: 188. doi: 10.1186/s13071-015-0794-5.
  • Microsatellite markers from the 'South American fruit fly' Anastrepha fraterculus: a valuable tool for population genetic analysis and SIT applications. BMC Genetics (2014) 15(Suppl 2): S13. doi: 10.1186/1471-2156-15-S2-S13.
  • The oriental fruitfly Bactrocera dorsalis s.s. in East Asia: disentangling the different forces promoting the invasion and shaping the genetic make-up of populations. Genetica (2014) 142: 201-213. doi: 10.1007/s10709-014-9767-4.
  • Uncovering the tracks of a recent and rapid invasion: the case of the fruit fly pest Bactrocera invadens (Diptera: Tephritidae) in Africa. Molecular Ecology (2009) 18: 4798-4810. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04391.x.
  • Globalization and fruitfly invasion and expansion: the medfly paradigm. Genetica (2007) 131: 1-9. doi: 10.1007/s10709-006-9117-2.