Carolina Barillas-Mury, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief, Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section

Major Areas of Research

  • Interactions between Plasmodium parasites, the gut microbiota, and mosquito midgut epithelial cells
  • Immune pathways that mediate antiplasmodial responses
  • Hemocyte differentiation and immune memory in mosquitoes
  • Plasmodium evasion of the mosquito immune system

The Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section investigates the interactions between the mosquito immune system andPlasmodium parasites to understand how they affect malaria transmission.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Barillas-Mury on National Public Radio: The Cure for Malaria Could Be in a Mosquito's Gut

Time bomb model of ookinete invasion

Parasites inflict extensive damage as they migrate through midgut epithelial cells that ultimately leads to apoptosis. Nitric oxide synthase, an inducible heme peroxidase (HPx2) and NADPH oxidase 5 (NOX5) mediate nitration reactions in epithelial cells that have been invaded by ookinetes. Parasite exposure to these chemical reactions during their transit through the midgut cell modifies them and promotes recognition and activation of TEP1-mediated lysis. We propose that ookinetes have a limited time window to escape from midgut cells without being tagged, as these modifications lead to destruction by the mosquito complement-like defense system.

Time bomb model of parasite invasion of mosquito midgut epithelial cells
Time bomb model of parasite invasion of mosquito midgut epithelial cells

Time bomb model of parasite invasion of mosquito midgut epithelial cells (Download larger version)

Dr. Barillas received her B.S. in biology from the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala in 1981, her M.D. from Universidad Francisco Marroquín de Guatemala in 1985, and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Arizona in 1992. From 1992 to 1993, she did postdoctoral training at the University of Arizona. She then went to Harvard University in 1994 and the European Molecular Lab until 1998. She was an assistant professor in the department of microbiology, immunology, and pathology at Colorado State University from 1998 to 2003. She joined the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research in 2003 and became a senior investigator in 2010.

Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section
Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section

Molina-Cruz A, Dejong RJ, Ortega C, Haile A, Abban E, Rodrigues J, Jaramillo-Gutierrez G, Barillas-Mury C. Some strains ofPlasmodium falciparum, a human malaria parasite, evade the complement-like system of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012 May 23. Epub ahead of print.

Rodrigues J, Oliveira GA, Kotsyfakis M, Dixit R, Molina-Cruz A, Jochim R, Barillas-Mury C. An epithelial serine protease, AgESP, is required for Plasmodium invasion in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35210.

Oliveira G de A, Lieberman J, Barillas-Mury C. Epithelial nitration by a peroxidase/NOX5 system mediates mosquito antiplasmodial immunity. Science. 2012 Feb 17;335(6070):856-9.

Gupta L, Noh JY, Jo YH, Oh SH, Kumar S, Noh MY, Lee YS, Cha SJ, Seo SJ, Kim I, Han YS, Barillas-Mury C. Apolipophorin-III mediates antiplasmodial epithelial responses in Anopheles gambiae (G3) mosquitoes. PLoS One. 2010 Nov 2;5(11):e15410.

Rodrigues J, Brayner FA, Alves LC, Dixit R, Barillas-Mury C. Hemocyte differentiation mediates innate immune memory inAnopheles gambiae mosquitoes. Science. 2010 Sep 10;329(5997):1353-5.

Kumar S, Molina-Cruz A, Gupta L, Rodrigues J, Barillas-Mury C. A peroxidase/dual oxidase system modulates midgut epithelial immunity in Anopheles gambiae. Science. 2010 Mar 26;327(5973):1644-8.

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Content last reviewed on October 29, 2013