Assistant Professor of Biology
BS - Ball State University, Muncie, IN
MA - Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
PhD - Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Major area of research:
Arthropod Disease Vectors
BIO 1305: Modern Concepts of Bioscience
Arthropod-borne diseases continue to plague developing regions and are being recognized as rising threats to public health in developed nations. Anthropogenic factors such as trade, international travel, global climate change, and habitat modification are major contributors to the spread of vectors and disease-causing agents. Moreover, pesticide/drug resistance and unsustainable control programs in many locations have eroded current methods of vector control and disease treatment. New insights into the biology of disease-transmitting insect and tick species are acutely needed in order to combat their devastating effects on human health and economic prosperity.
Our lab investigates the sensory neuronal basis for behaviors in disease-transmitting arthropods, especially mosquito vectors of arboviruses like Dengue and Zika. Of particular interest are the pathways that contribute to chemical- and temperature-oriented behaviors such as host seeking, nectar feeding and oviposition site selection. One of our major goals is to understand complex biological systems by employing a range of techniques including gene expression, neurophysiology, and animal responses to sensory stimuli. A long-term objective of our efforts will be to contribute to reductions in human and animal disease transmission at local, national, and regional levels by developing novel methods of arthropod surveillance and control that can be integrated into existing pest management programs.
Pitts RJ*, Derryberry S*, Zhang Z, Zwiebel LJ (2017) “Variant Ionotropic Receptors in the Malaria Vector Mosquito Anopheles gambiae Tuned to Amines and Carboxylic Acids.” Sci Rep 7: 40297
Dekel A, Pitts RJ, Yakir E, Bohbot JD (2016) “Evolutionary conserved odorant receptor function questions ecological context of octenol role in mosquitoes.” Sci Rep 6: 37330.
Rinker DC, Pitts RJ, Zwiebel LJ (2016) “Disease vectors in the era of next generation sequencing.” Genome Biology 17:95.
Bohbot JB, Pitts RJ (2015) “The narrowing olfactory landscape of insect odorant receptors.” Front Ecol Evol 3:39.
Pitts RJ*, Derryberry SL Jr*, Pulous FE, Zwiebel LJ (2014) “Antennal-Expressed Ammonium Transporters in the Malaria Vector Mosquito Anopheles gambiae.” PLoS One 9(10):e111858.
Pitts RJ (2014) “A blood-free protein meal supporting oogenesis in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus (Skuse).” J Insect Phys 64:1-6.
Pitts RJ*, Liu C*, Zhou X*, Malpartida JC, Zwiebel LJ (2014) “Odorant Receptor-Mediated Sperm Activation in Disease Vector Mosquitoes.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111(7):2566-71.
Rinker DC*, Zhou X*, Pitts RJ, The AGC Consortium, Rokas A, Zwiebel LJ (2013) “Antennal Transcriptome Profiles of Anopheline mosquitoes reveal human host olfactory specialization in An. gambiae.” BMC Genomics 14(1):749.
Rinker DC, Pitts RJ, Zhou X, Suh E, Rokas A, Zwiebel LJ (2013) “Bloodmeal-induced changes to antennal transcriptome profiles reveal shifts in odor sensitivities in Anopheles gambiae.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110(20):8260-5.
Charlwood JD, Tomás EVE, Egyir-Yawson A, Kampango A, Pitts RJ (2012) “Feeding Frequency and Survival of Anopheles gambiae from a rice growing area of Ghana.” Med Vet Entomol 26(3):263-70.
Pitts RJ*, Rinker DC*, Jones PL*, Rokas A, Zwiebel LJ (2011) “Transcriptome profiling of chemosensory appendages in the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae reveals tissue- and sex-specific signatures of odor coding.” BMC Genomics 12:271.
Charlwood JD, Tomás EVE, Salgueiro P, Egyir-Yawson A, Pitts RJ, Pinto J (2011) “Studies on the behaviour of peridomestic and endophagic M form Anopheles gambiae from a rice growing area of Ghana.” Bull Entomol Res 101(5):533-9.
Bohbot JD, Jones PL, Wang G, Pitts RJ, Pask GM, Zwiebel LJ (2011) “Conservation of indole responsive odorant receptors in mosquitoes reveals an ancient olfactory trait.” Chem Senses 36(2):149-60.
Liu C*, Pitts RJ*, Bohbot JD, Jones PL, Wang G, Zwiebel LJ (2010) “Distinct olfactory signaling mechanisms in the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae.” PLoS Biol 31;8(8).