Joel Vega-Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Joel Vega-Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Credit: NIAID
Earl Stadtman Investigator, NIH Distinguished Scholar
Chief, Molecular Parasitology and Entomology Unit

Major Areas of Research

  • Host-parasite-vector interactions required for sporozoite transmission
  • Parasite interaction with the human fibrinolytic system and its role during parasite infection of the mosquito and the mammalian host
  • Molecular mechanisms of Plasmodium sexual reproduction in the mosquito midgut

Program Description

Malaria parasites have a complex life cycle that takes place in between the human host and the mosquito vector. The parasite undergoes severe developmental bottlenecks during sexual reproduction in the mosquito midgut and during sporozoite infection of the human, making these two stages of the life cycle excellent targets for the development of new anti-malarial strategies. The research goals in the Molecular Parasitology and Entomology Unit are to study the biology of the malaria parasite during these vulnerable developmental bottlenecks by characterizing essential vector-parasite and host-parasite interactions. The long-term goal is to identify new targets that could be exploited for malaria interventions including chemotherapy, vaccine development, and transgenic mosquitoes. Two specific areas of study include

  • The role of vector and host factors for sporozoite infectivity
  • Molecular mechanisms required for Plasmodium sexual reproduction in the mosquito

To achieve these goals, our laboratory uses a combination of molecular, cellular, and entomological technologies including single-cell transcriptomics, proteomics, parasite and mosquito transgenesis, RNA interference, intravital confocal microscopy, and malaria transmission assays.

Inquiries about predoctoral and postdoctoral training, as well as Ph.D. studentships in the NIH Graduate Partnership Program, are welcome.


Dr. Joel Vega-Rodriguez received his Ph.D. in molecular biology in 2008 at the Rio Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. In 2009 he joined the laboratory of Dr. Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, where he did his postdoctoral training and later became a research associate. In 2018, Dr. Vega-Rodriguez became a Stadtman tenure-track investigator in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research.

Research Group

Thiago Luiz Alves E Silva

Tales Vicari Pascini

Selected Publications

Godman CD, Siregar JE, Mollard V, Vega-Rodríguez J, Syafruddin D, Matsuoka H, Matsuzaki M, Toyama T, Sturm A, Cozijnsen A, Jacobs-Lorena M, Kita K, Marzuki S, McFadden GI. Parasites resistant to the antimalarial atovaquone fail to transmit by mosquitoes. Science. 2016 Apr 15;352(6283):349-53.

Vega-Rodríguez J, Pastrana-Mena R, Crespo-Lladó KN, Ortiz JG, Ferrer-Rodríguez I, Serrano AE. Implications of glutathione levels in the Plasmodium berghei response to chloroquine and artemisinin. PLoS One. 2015 May 26;10(5):e0128212.

Vega-Rodriguez J, Perez-Barreto D, Ruiz-Reyes A, Jacobs-Lorena M. Targeting molecular interactions essential for Plasmodium sexual reproduction. Cell Microbiol. 2015 Nov;17(11):1594-604.

Vega-Rodríguez J, Ghosh AK, Kanzok SM, Dinglasan RR, Wang S, Bongio NJ, Kalume DE, Miura K, Long CA, Pandey A, Jacobs-Lorena M. Multiple pathways for Plasmodium ookinete invasion of the mosquito midgut. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 28;111(4):E492-500.

Fang W, Vega-Rodríguez J, Ghosh AK, Jacobs-Lorena M, Kang A, St Leger RJ. 2011. Development of transgenic fungi that kill human malaria parasites in mosquitoes. Science. 2011 Feb 25;331(6020):1074-7.

Vega-Rodríguez J, Franke-Fayard B, Dinglasan RR, Janse CJ, Coppens I, Pastrana-Mena R, Waters AP, Rodríguez-Orengo J, Jacobs-Lorena M, Serrano AE. The glutathione biosynthetic pathway of Plasmodium is essential for mosquito transmission. PLoS Pathog. 2009 Feb;5(2):e1000302.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication listing.

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