Infective parasites must traverse the mosquito salivary glands to transmit malaria to humans and other animals. The Andrew Lab is leveraging its findings on the molecules required to form and maintain the Drosophila salivary gland to develop strategies to block malaria transmission. Shown is an optical section through the distal lateral lobe of a female adult salivary gland stained with DAPI (blue, nuclei), alpha-tubulin (green, cytosol) and wheat-germ agglutinin (red; chitin/O-GlcNAcylated proteins). Parasites normally accumulate in the large secretory cavities of the cup-shaped salivary gland cells. In recent work, the Andrew Lab has uncovered how the unusual cup-shaped morphologies of salivary gland cells is attained. Current efforts are directed toward learning how disruptions in candidate genes (identified through studies in Drosophila) affect mosquito salivary gland morphology, function and maintenance, as well as transmission competence.

Deborah Andrew, Ph.D.