Decoding the receptors and ion channels that control sensory reception and animal behavior

A central question in neurobiology is how animal behavior and decision making is controlled by the environment. Using molecular genetic, electrophysiological, biochemical and cell biological approaches in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, our laboratory is defining the receptors and ion channels that sense the outside world, and impact on decisions ranging from food selection to choosing the ideal thermal landscape, mate selection and others. One of the key sensory receptors that we are characterizing are TRP channels, which in one animal or another responds to virtually all types of sensory inputs and impacts on a wide range of behaviors. We are also deciphering polymodal sensory roles of gustatory receptors and ionotropic receptors, and defining the behaviors that they control. We are unraveling multiple light-independent roles for rhodopsins, and posit that their ancient roles were in chemosensation rather than light sensation. Most recently, we have started developing a variety of strategies to control the mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, which spreads Dengue, Zika and other diseases.