Josefina del Marmol

Josefina del Marmol

Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Josefina del Marmol
Our lab studies the molecular mechanisms of sensory transduction, seeking to understand how animals detect the physical and chemical cues from their environment and transform them into cellular signals. In particular, we focus on the sense of smell in insect vectors of disease.
Animals rely on the sense of smell for a large repertoire of behaviors. At the molecular level, odors are composed of millions of widely diverse odorant compounds that animals sense with only tens or hundreds of olfactory receptors . How can this small number of receptors detect and discriminate the nearly infinite olfactory space? How do evolutionary forces shape the structure and function of olfactory receptors to enable species-specific olfactory preferences?
In particular, many insects like mosquitoes have specialized to feed off human blood, developing an olfactory preference for human odors. This human host-seeking behavior leads to the transmission of deadly diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and Chagas disease, which take the lives of almost a million people every year. Despite the importance of developing novel strategies for vector control, the molecular mechanisms that allow insect vectors to hone in on human odors remain elusive.
Our lab aims to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the molecular logic of olfaction, from the structural features that determine odor specificity to the evolutionary forces that shape olfactory-driven behavior. For this, we use cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM), electrophysiology, calcium imaging, computational modeling and behavioral experiments of olfactory preferences in insect vectors to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that allow animals to detect and discriminate the vast olfactory space.

Contact Information

Harvard Medical School
BCMP, Bldg. C1 Room 210
240 Longwood Ave.
Building C Room 210
Boston, MA 02115

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