Laura Duvall

2019 Regional Award Winner — Post-Doc

Laura Duvall

Current Position:
Assistant Professor

Institution:
Columbia University (Previously, The Rockefeller University)

Discipline:
Neuroscience

Recognized for: the groundbreaking identification of two key molecules in mosquitos that play important roles in inhibiting mosquito blood-feeding behavior and breeding. Targeting these molecular systems could have world-wide implications for controlling mosquito populations that spread diseases such as dengue and Zika.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Mosquito, CRISPR-Cas9, Behavioral Neuroscience, Reproduction, Peptides

Previous Positions:

PhD, Washington University in St. Louis
BA, University of Pennsylvania

Research Summary:

Dr. Duvall is a neuroscientist making breakthrough discoveries in identifying molecules that control mosquito blood-feeding behavior and breeding, which can have a worldwide impact on controlling mosquito populations that spread diseases such as dengue and Zika. Only female mosquitos feed on blood from human hosts, and the nutrients in these “blood meals” provide nourishment for females to mature their eggs. Each time a mosquito feeds on a human she can transmit disease, so preventing female mosquitos from feeding on multiple human hosts could prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. After a single blood meal, a female will not bite for several days while she develops her eggs. Dr. Duvall identified a molecule called NPY-like receptor 7 (NPYLR7) that is activated when a female consumes a blood meal. Activation of this receptor sends a signal that effectively blocks her attraction to find and bite humans. Dr. Duvall’s identification of drugs that activate NPYLR7 prevented females from consuming blood meals even if they had not previously fed.

Dr. Duvall also discovered how the molecule HP-I and its receptor regulate mosquito breeding behavior. Female mosquitos only mate once, and the HP-I molecule transmitted from the male to the female prevents her from successfully breeding with other males, ensuring that he fathers all of her offspring. Injecting a virgin female with HP-I prevents successful breeding with any males. Understanding these molecular mechanisms behind mosquito feeding and breeding offer multiple potential interventions to reduce mosquito populations and stop the spread of disease.

"I love the creative side of science—having the freedom to follow up on an unexpected observation in the lab that leads us in a completely new direction or totally changes how we’ve been thinking about our experiments. Being wrong is often the first step to an even more exciting discovery."

Key Publications:

  1. L.B. Duvall, L. Ramos-Espiritu, K.E. Barsoum, J.F. Glickman, L.B. Vosshall. Small molecule agonists of Ae. aegypti neuropeptide Y receptor block mosquito biting. Cell, 2019.
  2. E.J. Dennis, M. Dobosiewicz, X. Jin, L.B. Duvall, P.S. Hartman, C.I. Bargmann, L.B. Vosshall. A natural variant and engineered mutation in a GPCR promote DEET resistance in C. elegans. Nature, 2018.
  3. L.B. Duvall, N.S. Basrur, H. Molina, C.J. McMeniman, L.B. Vosshall. A peptide signaling system that rapidly enforces paternity in the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Current Biology, 2017.
  4. L.B. Duvall, P.H. Taghert. The circadian neuropeptide PDF signals preferentially through a specific adenylate cyclase isoform AC3 in M pacemakers of Drosophila.  PLoS Biology, 2012.

Other Honors:

2019 Tri-Institutional Breakout Prize for Junior Investigators
2016 Polak Young Investigator Award, Association for Chemoreception Sciences
2014-2016 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biological Science, American Philosophical Society
2013-2014 Women & Science Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Rockefeller University

In the Media:

NPRScientists' 'Craziest Experiment Possible' Actually Works On Mosquitoes

The Rockefeller University NewswireNew findings could make mosquitoes more satisfied—and safer to be around

The AtlanticA New Way to Keep Mosquitoes from Biting

Scientific AmericanHuman Diet Drugs Kill Mosquitoe’s Appetite, Too

The Rockefeller University NewswireMosquito sex protein could provide key to controlling disease

FuturityMosquito Sex Swap Leaves Females ‘Loyal’

Website