Ecological and evolutionary genetics, insect-plant and insect-environment interactions.
The laboratory's research interests are in ecological and evolutionary genetics, as they relate specifically to insect-plant and insect-environment interactions. We combine ecological and genomic tools in order to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying insect adaptation to biotic and a-biotic environmental constrains: synthetic insecticides, plant defensive chemistry and more recently, climate changes.
The research team is multi-disciplinary and combines plant genetic engineering with insect ecology, chemistry, behavior and genomics. Analyses focus on arthropods that are major pests of agriculture. The main model system includes the phloem-feeding whitefly Bemisia tabaci. Bemisia tabaci has been recognized as a complex of 11 well-defined high-level generic groups containing at least 35 morphologically indistinguishable species. These closely-related species are an excellent model system for studying the microevolution of insect genes in the context of their association with environmental constrains such as detoxification of plant toxins/synthetic, insecticides and tolerance to extreme a-biotic conditions. During the years, the laboratory has developed a variety of genomic tools for our model organisms, such as: cDNA subtractive expression libraries, next generation deep sequencing (NGS) databases, Agilent targeted-microarrays and various RNA interference tools. This experimental system allows us to provide novel insights to the ways in which insects cope with the diversity and unpredictability of a range of biotic and a-biotic factors.