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Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

Dr. Chelsea Smartt

Chelsea Smartt

Associate Professor

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
ctsmart@ufl.edu

Our ability to mitigate epidemics is hindered by lack of knowledge about the mosquito vectors and our inability to predict dangerous vector populations and specific periods when they may become dangerous. A large part of the research being conducted in my lab is needed to fill in the missing information that has to do with vector-virus interactions. The interaction of the mosquito and the invading virus is complex and can result in physiological and gene expression alterations in the insect. In light of the above, we investigate the association of West Nile virus (WNV) and Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus mosquitoes and Dengue (DENV) and Chikungunya (CHIKV) viruses and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that result in measureable changes in gene expression. Measurable changes in expression can be used to elucidate those genes involved in the infection and dissemination process for development of mosquito virus-transmission blocking vaccines.

To investigate the mechanism behind vector ability for West Nile virus, we identified a number of novel antiviral genes in Cx. p. quinquefasciatus shown to coincide with reduced WNV titer in the mosquito midgut when their expression is high. These novel genes were additionally shown to be involved in the same antiviral immune response pathway. Work to further characterize their involvement in WNV infection process is ongoing. We performed full transcriptome sequencing (Illumina) of two mosquito populations with variation in their vector competence and RNAseq analysis revealed involvement of several genes in differential competence to WNV and revealed the involvement of products involved in transport and signal transduction. Work is ongoing to specifically map which transport or signal transduction pathways are involved in the differences in WNV competence between the two populations.

We are also interested in the interaction of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and the different serotypes of DENV. Our studies on an Aedes aegypti population collected in Key West FL in 2011 showed significant differences in its competence for three serotypes of dengue virus (DENV) implicated in past dengue outbreaks in Puerto Rico. The differences may be attributable to factors involved in virus genomics, viral growth kinetics, cellular receptors and/or antiviral response. In my lab we focus our studies on the interaction of mosquito genes involved in antiviral response and expression difference between infections with the 4 serotypes of DENV.

Since the recent outbreak of Chikungunya virus in Florida in 2014, we have initiated an investigation into the sudden local transmission of CHIKV and the molecular mechanisms responsible for this invasion.

Chelsea Smartt

Associate Professor

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
ctsmart@ufl.edu

  • Ph.D. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, 1995
  • B.S. Biology, Tennessee State University, 1989

Chelsea Smartt

Associate Professor

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
ctsmart@ufl.edu

Selected Publications

  • Smartt C. T. and J. S. Erickson.  2008.  The CNAct-1 gene is differentially expressed in the tropical mosquito Culex nigripalpus, the primary West Nile virus vector in Florida.  J. Med. Entomol. 45(5): 877-884.
  • Smartt C. T. and J. S. Erickson.  2008.  Blood meal induced differential gene expression in the disease vector, Culex nigripalpus.  J. Med. Entomol. 45(2): 326-330.
  • Eans, S., R. L. Frommer, and C. T. Smartt. 2009. Isolation and spatial expression analysis of a partial esterase gene of Culex nigripalpus (Diptera:  Culicidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 46(6): 1370-1375.
  • Smartt, C. T., S. L. Richards, S. L. Anderson, and J. S. Erickson. 2009. West Nile Virus infection alters midgut gene expression in Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus Say (Diptera: Culicidae). American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 81(2): 258–263.
  • Smartt, C. T., and J. S. Erickson. 2009. Expression of a novel member of the odorant binding protein gene family in Culex nigripalpus Theobald (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of Medical Entomology46(6) 1376-1381.
  • Vitek, C. J., Richards S. L., H. Robinson, and C. T. Smartt. 2009. A probability model for detecting arboviruses in mosquito pools. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 25(3): 374-378.
  • Anderson, S. L., S. L. Richards, and C. T. Smartt. 2010. A simple method for examining arbovirus transmission in mosquitoes. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 26: 108-111.
  • Anderson, S. L., S. L. Richards, W. J. Tabachnick, and C. T. Smartt. 2010. Effects of West Nile Virus Dose and Extrinsic Incubation Temperature on Temporal Progression of Vector Competence in Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus Say (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 26(1):103–107.
  • Smartt, C. T., C. J. Vitek, S. L. Richards, and S. L. Anderson. 2010. Effects of forced egg retention and extrinsic incubation period on West Nile virus infection in Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus Say (Diptera:  Culicidae). Environmental Entomology 39(1): 190-194.
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Barry Alto

Associate Professor

Mosquito Ecology - Disdease Transmission
bwalto@ufl.edu
Appointments, Awards, and Professional Service:
  • 2016-present, Editorial Board, Entomological Society of America (Environmental Entomology).
  • 2015-present, Board of Directors (Member-at-Large), Florida Mosquito Control Association.
  • 2014, Richard Jones Outstanding New Faculty Research Award, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
  • 2011-2014, Editorial Board (served as chair in 2014), Entomological Society of America (Journal of Medical Entomology).
  • 2011-2014, Faculty Assembly representative, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
  • 2014-present, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Faculty Research Advisory Group, University of Florida.