Department of Molecular Physiology
Our research group have been working on identification, expression and function of neuropeptides and their receptors in model species of moths (Bombyx mori, Manduca sexta), fruitfly (Drosophila melanogaster) and ticks (Ixodes, Rhipicephalus, Amblyomma, Hyalomma). In particular, we are interested in signaling pathways that control various behaviors and physiological functions important for normal development, ecdysis, metamorphosis and reproduction. We use molecular biology and bioinformatics approaches for identification of genes and precursors encoding neuropeptides and their receptors from available databases of our model species. We routinely perform in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry along with light and confocal imaging for identification and description of neurons, neurohemal tissues and endocrine cells producing bioactive peptides and proteins. In situ hybridization and qRT-PCR are used to determine spatial and temporal expression profiles of transcription factors and receptors in the target organs involved in neuropeptide signaling. We also developed various bioassays as well as electrophysiology techniques to determine mechanisms of action and physiological functions of neuropeptides in vitro. To better understand complex interactions between hormones and their receptors in vivo, we use techniques for transient and germ-line transformation in Bombyx. For transient transformation we utilize the recombinant baculovirus expression system. For generation of germ-line transformants we routinely use the piggyBac vectors for insertions of various constructs and molecular markers into Bombyx genome. We are experienced in various genetic approaches established in the fruit fly (Drosophila) that include CRISPR/Cas9 system for targeted mutations of specific genes. We also identified and described complex regulatory systems connecting the brain with salivary glands, gut and reproductory organs in ticks, and developed RNAi approaches to study physiology and regulation of feeding and reproduction in these important vectors of pathogens.