Molecular Entomology / Pesticide Science Lab
(Vontas Group)


PI: John Vontas

Professor
Director of Pesticide Science Lab
Agricultural University of Athens

Agricultural University of Athens

Group Leader of Molecular Entomology
Institute Molecular Biology Biotechnology
FORTH, Heraklion, Crete

Institute of Molecular Biology

Areas of interest

Understanding the mechanisms by which insects (agricultural pests and mosquitoes) develop resistance to insecticides, aiming to develop new means of managing and overcoming this resistance. Exploring biotechnology based approaches for insect control and discovery of novel insecticide targets.

Background

I obtained a BSc in Agronomy from the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) (1992), a DSPU (master) in Horticultural Sciences from the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute Chania (MAICh, CIHEAM) (1993) and a PhD in Insect Genetics from AUA (1997). A NATO and a Marie Curie fellowships took me to School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, UK as a Research Fellow for three years, and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). This was followed by a Return Marie Curie and an ENTER (GSRT) Fellowships, which took me to the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB-FORTH) in Crete (2002-2004). I was appointed as lecturer at AUA in 2005, and as a Professor at the University of Crete in 2009 and director of the Applied Biology and Biotechnology Division (2010-2012). I spent a brief period at the LSTM again from 2012 to 2013 working for IVCC (New Paradigms), and then returned to AUA as Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Pesticide Science since 2014. I am also Group Leader of the Molecular Entomology group at IMBB.

Other relevant expertise, professional memberships etc.

  • Academic Editor for PloS One; Subject Editor in Bulletin of Entomological Research and Journal of Economic Entomology; Member of the Editorial Board of Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, Acta Tropica and Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Reviewer for >50 Peer Review Journals and many Funding Organizations (MRC - UK, ANR - France, BBSRC - UK, ISF - Israel, BARD - Israel, FWO - Belgium, RPF - France, Welcome Trust - UK, NCSTE - Kazankstan etc).
  • Chairman of External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC 4), Innovative Vector control Consortium Control (IVCC)

Teaching

Pesticide Science; Economic, Medical and Molecular Entomology; Biotechnology (undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Agricultural University of Athens and the Department of Biology, University of Crete)

Research

Insecticide Resistance

We investigate the mechanisms by which insects (agricultural pests and mosquitoes - major vectors of diseases) develop resistance to insecticides and xenobiotics. Our approaches include classical bioassay, to identify resistance phenotypes and biotechnology-based approaches for the identification and validating of resistance mechanisms. The latter include recombinant enzyme - based techniques, which allow the study of in vitro interactions between detoxification enzymes and xenobiotics, as well as in vivo functional approaches, using Drosophila as a model, to analyse the contribution of specific mutations (using targeted mutagenesis CRISPR/Cas9) alone or in combination with ectopically overexpressed detoxification genes, in the resistance phenotype, and their interplay. We also look at the specific expression of enzymes involved in resistance by immunolocalisation techniques, aiming to identify the major attrition points in delivery of insecticide to the target site.

Molecular diagnostics are being developed, and used to study resistance dynamics and evolution of resistance in major disease vectors and agricultural pests, in order to inform Insecticide Resistance Management strategies.

Tools for in vitro (such as recombinant detoxification enzymes) and in vivo (such as insect lines with defined resistance mutations and mechanisms) screens of novel insecticides and synergists (additives) are also developed.

We investigate the mechanisms by which insects develop resistance to insecticides and xenobiotics

Biotechnology based approaches for novel insecticides targets

Holistic biotechnology based approaches using state-of the-art technologies (transcriptomics, proteomics, functional and cell based assays) are applied to enable the identification of potential molecular targets in insect pests and mosquitoes. Current efforts focus on the guts of major agricultural pests and the legs of Anopheles mosquitoes

Current projects and major grants

  • Grant Agreement number: 731060 , 2017-2020 (INFRAVEC2), «Research Infrastructures for the control of vector-borne diseases» https://infravec2.eu (Partner)
  • EU HORIZON 2020, 2016-2019, «Automated diagnostic platform, data management system and innovative communication tool, for improving the impact of malaria vector control interventions» http://www.dmc-malvec.eu/ (Project Coordinator)
  • Bayer, 2017-2021, Insect gut biology: biotechnology based approaches for novel insecticide targets discovery (Project Coordinator)
  • FP7-AFRICA-2010: HEALTH.2010.2.3.2-4 Controlling malaria by hitting the vector: New or improved - Vector Control Tools (2011-2015). Title: African Vector Control: New tools (AvecNet) - (Partner)
  • HSR Technology 2013-2015 (Aristeia), Genomic approaches for understanding xenobiotic detoxification of the olive fruit fly and its adaptation to olives, and biological genetic sexing for improving SIT (Coordinator)
  • HSR Technology 2012-2015 (Thalis), Genomic and functional approaches for understanding insecticide resistance mechanisms in major agricultural pests (Coordinator)
  • HSR Technology 2012-2015 (Thalis), Development of IT and molecular diagnostic tools, for improving the sustainability of pesticide based approaches to control agricultural pests of major economic importance in Greece (Partner)
  • INFRAVEC - FP7 Infrastructures 2008-1, 2009-2013, Research capacity For the Implementation of Genetic Control of Mosquitoes (Partner)
  • IVCC Research Grant (funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), 2007-2013, Pyrethroid Quantification Kit (Coordinator) and Vector population monitoring kit (Partner)

The Group

Mavridis Kostas

Kostas Mavridis,
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Molecular Diagnostics,
mavridiskos@gmail.com

Evangelia Morou

Evangelia Morou,
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Project/Lab Manager ,
emorou@biology.uoc.gr

Vasileia Balabanidou

Vasileia Balabanidou,
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Insecticide resistance: proteomics, immunolocalisation and cuticle/SEM ,
balaban@imbb.forth.gr


Maria Riga

Maria Riga,
Post Doctoral Research Accociate,
RNAi and functional assays,
riga@edu.biology.uoc.gr

Vassilis Douris

Vassilis Douris,
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Lepidoptera molecular genetics, molecular targets in insect gut ,
vdouris@imbb.forth.gr

Shane M. Denecke

Shane M. Denecke,
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Biotechnology based approaches for insecticide target discovery,
shanedenecke@gmail.com

Aris Ilias

Aris Ilias,
Post Doctoral Research Accociate,
Insecticide resistance/transcriptomics/gut physiology,
arishlias@yahoo.gr

Elena Vorgia

Elena Vorgia,
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Explore analogous to Pharma insect cell models for insecticide target discovery,
vorgia@imbb.forth.gr

Dimitra Tsakireli

Dimitra Tsakireli,
Technician (protein expression - characterization of recombinant enzymes - interactions with xenobiotics; HPLC/MS) ,
dimitsaki@yahoo.gr


Sofia Kaforou

Sofia Kaforou,
Technician - Lab Manager: Proteomics, cell cultures, kaforou@imbb.forth.gr

Max Fotakis

Max Fotakis,
PhD Student - Analysis of vector born disease epidemiological risks in refugee hot spots / Mosquito resistance and innovative method for control ,
maxfotakis@aua.gr

Natassa Kampouraki

Natassa Kampouraki,
PhD Student - Bactrocera oleae resistance
(Insectory, Bioassays, RNAi),
kampouraki.an@gmail.com


Spyros Vlogianitis

Spyros Vlogianitis,
PhD Student - Analysis of acaricide resistance in the parasitic mite of honey bees Varroa destructor ,
spyrosvlog@hotmail.com

Ioulietta Moustaka

Ioulietta Moustaka,
PhD Student - Biotechnological control of Bactrocera oleae and Drosophila suzukii ,
grad738@edu.biology.uoc.gr

Mary Kefi

Mary Kefi,
PhD Student - "The Achilles' heel of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae"
molgrad363@edu.biology.uoc.gr


Rafaella Panteleri

Rafaella Panteleri,
PhD Student, CRISPR: advanced systems for evaluating resistance mutations in drosophila, rpantele@gmail.com



Current Master Students / Projects (2016/17):

  • Stavrini Papadaki: Immunohistochemical approaches for understanding insecticide resistance mechanisms in Tetranychus urticae
  • George Samantsidis: Functional in vivo analysis of resistance mutations and molecular diagnostics
  • Iason Christou CRISPR: advanced systems for evaluation resistance mutations and mechanisms in drosophila
  • Sofia Foukaraki: Functional analysis of detoxification enzymes from major agricultural pests
  • Paraskevi Boulasiki CRISPR: advanced systems for evaluation resistance mutations and mechanisms in drosophila
  • Giannis Metikidis: Molecular diagnostics, infectious diseases
  • Venetia Koidou: Analysis and monitoring of insecticide resistance in vectors of zoonoses


ALUMNI:

  • Linda Grigoraki: Post Doctoral Researcher Associate, LSTM
  • Nena Pavlidi: Post Doctoral Researcher University of Amsterdam
  • Ilias Kioulos: Industry (insecticides) - Technical Lead
  • Vassiliki Bariami: Post Doctoral Researcher

Publications

Recent

  • Bryon A, Kurlovs AH, Dermauw W, Greenhalgh R, Riga M, Grbić M, Tirry L, Osakabe M, Vontas J, Clark RM, Van Leeuwen T.(2017) Disruption of a horizontally transferred phytoene desaturase abolishes carotenoid accumulation and diapause in Tetranychus urticae. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (IF2015 9.423) pii: 201706865. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1706865114 PMID: 28674017
  • Douris V., Steinbach D., Panteleri R., Livadaras I., Pickett J.A., Van Leeuwen T., Nauen R., Vontas J. (2016) A resistance mutation conserved between insects and mites unravels the benzoylurea insecticide mode of action on chitin biosynthesis. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA (PNAS) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1618258113 PMID: 27930336
  • Balabanidou V, Kampouraki A, MacLean M, Blomquist G.J, Tittiger C, Juárez P, Mijailovsky S.J, Chalepakis G, Anthousi A, Lynde A, Antoine S, Hemingway J, Ranson H, Lycett G.J, Vontas J. (2016) Cytochrome P450 associated with insecticide resistance catalyzes cuticular hydrocarbon production in Anopheles gambiae. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608295113 PMID: 27439866
  • Grigoraki L, Balabanidou V, Meristoudis C, Miridakis A, Ranson H, Swevers L, Vontas J (2016) Functional and immunohistochemical characterization of CCEae3a, a carboxylesterase associated with temephos resistance in the major arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Jul;74:61-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.05.007 PMID: 27180726
  • Grigoraki L., Lagnel J., Kioulos I., Kampouraki A., Morou E., Labbé P., Weill M., Vontas J. (2015) Transcriptome profiling and genetic study reveal amplified carboxylesterase genes implicated in temephos resistance, in the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus. PloS Negl Trop Diseases. 9(5):e0003771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003771. PMID: 26000638
  • Riga M., Myridakis ., Tsakireli ., Morou ., Stephanou ., Nauen ., Van Leeuwen ., Douris V., Vontas J. (2015) Functional characterization of the Tetranychus urticae CYP392A11, a cytochrome P450 that hydroxylates the METI acaricides cyenopyrafen and fenpyroximate. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 65: 91-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.09.004. PMID: 26363294
  • Nauen R., Wölfel K., Lueke B., Myridakis A., Tsakireli D, Roditakis E., Tsagkarakou A, Stephanou E., Vontas J. (2015) Development of a lateral flow test to detect metabolic resistance in Bemisia tabaci mediated by CYP6CM1, a cytochrome P450 with broad spectrum catalytic efficiency. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology. 121: 3-11. doi:10.1016/j.pestbp.2014.12.023. PMID: 26047106
  • Neafsey D., Robert M. Waterhouse R., ...,Vontas J.,..., Zwiebel L., Besansky N (2014) Highly evolvable malaria vectors: The genomes of 16 Anopheles mosquitoes Published Online Science (early edition) Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1258522. PMID: 25554792
  • Kioulos I, A Kampouraki, E Morou, G Skavdis, and J Vontas (2014) Insecticide resistance status in the major West Nile virus vector Culex pipiens from Greece. Pest Management Science 70: 623-627. PMID: 23788440
  • Vontas J, S Moores, I Kleinschmidt, H Ranson, S Lindsay, C Lengeler, N Hamon, T McLean, and J Hemingway (2014) A Logical Framework for assessment and adoption of new vector control product categories. Trends in Parasitology: doi: 10.1016/j.pt.2014.02.005. PMID: 24657042

Selected Publications

  • Bryon A, Kurlovs AH, Dermauw W, Greenhalgh R, Riga M, Grbić M, Tirry L, Osakabe M, Vontas J, Clark RM, Van Leeuwen T.(2017) Disruption of a horizontally transferred phytoene desaturase abolishes carotenoid accumulation and diapause in Tetranychus urticae. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (IF2015 9.423) pii: 201706865. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1706865114 PMID: 28674017
  • Douris V., Steinbach D., Panteleri R., Livadaras I., Pickett J.A., Van Leeuwen T., Nauen R., Vontas J. (2016) A resistance mutation conserved between insects and mites unravels the benzoylurea insecticide mode of action on chitin biosynthesis. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA (PNAS) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1618258113 PMID: 27930336
  • Balabanidou V, Kampouraki A, MacLean M, Blomquist G.J, Tittiger C, Juárez P, Mijailovsky S.J, Chalepakis G, Anthousi A, Lynde A, Antoine S, Hemingway J, Ranson H, Lycett G.J, Vontas J. (2016) Cytochrome P450 associated with insecticide resistance catalyzes cuticular hydrocarbon production in Anopheles gambiae. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608295113 PMID: 27439866
  • Grigoraki L, Balabanidou V, Meristoudis C, Miridakis A, Ranson H, Swevers L, Vontas J (2016) Functional and immunohistochemical characterization of CCEae3a, a carboxylesterase associated with temephos resistance in the major arbovirus vectors Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Jul;74:61-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.05.007 PMID: 27180726
  • Grigoraki L., Lagnel J., Kioulos I., Kampouraki A., Morou E., Labbé P., Weill M., Vontas J. (2015) Transcriptome profiling and genetic study reveal amplified carboxylesterase genes implicated in temephos resistance, in the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus. PloS Negl Trop Diseases. 9(5):e0003771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003771. PMID: 26000638
  • Riga M., Myridakis ., Tsakireli ., Morou ., Stephanou ., Nauen ., Van Leeuwen ., Douris V., Vontas J. (2015) Functional characterization of the Tetranychus urticae CYP392A11, a cytochrome P450 that hydroxylates the METI acaricides cyenopyrafen and fenpyroximate. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 65: 91-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.09.004. PMID: 26363294
  • Hemingway J, J Vontas, R Poupardin, J Raman, J Lines, C Schwabe, A Matias, and I Kleinschmidt (2013) Country-level operational implementation of the Global Plan for Insecticide Resistance Management. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110: 9397-9402. PMID: 23696658
  • Dermauw W, N Wybouw, S Rombauts, B Menten, J Vontas, M Grbic, RM Clark, R Feyereisen, and T Van Leeuwen (2013) A link between host plant adaptation and pesticide resistance in the polyphagous spider mite Tetranychus urticae. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110: E113-E122. PMID: 23248300
  • Mironidis GK, D Kapantaidaki, M Bentila, E Morou, M Savopoulou-Soultani, and J Vontas (2013) Resurgence of the cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera in northern Greece associated with insecticide resistance. Insect Science 20: 505-512. PMID: 23955946
  • Vontas J, P Hernandez-Crespo, JT Margaritopoulos, F Ortego, HT Feng, KD Mathiopoulos, and JC Hsu (2011) Insecticide resistance in Tephritid flies. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology 100: 199-205.
  • Bass C., Nikou D., Vontas J., Donnelly M.J., Williamson M.S. Field L.M. (2010) The Vector Population Monitoring Tool (VPMT): High-throughput DNA-based diagnostics for the monitoring of mosquito vector populations. Malaria Research and Treatment ID 190434, 8 pages doi:10.4061/2010/190434.
  • Karunker I, E Morou, D Nikou, R Nauen, R Sertchook, BJ Stevenson, MJI Paine, S Morin, and J Vontas (2009) Structural model and functional characterization of the Bemisia tabaci CYP6CM1vQ, a cytochrome P450 associated with high levels of imidacloprid resistance. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 39: 697-706. PMID: 19716416
  • Hemingway J, L Field, and J Vontas (2002) An overview of insecticide resistance. Science 298: 96-97.
  • Vontas JG, MJ Hejazi, NJ Hawkes, N Cosmidis, M Loukas, and J Hemingway (2002) Resistance-associated point mutations of organophosphate insensitive acetylcholinesterase, in the olive fruit fly Bactrocera oleae. Insect Molecular Biology 11: 329-336. PMID: 12144698
  • Vontas JG, GJ Small, and J Hemingway (2001) Glutathione S-transferases as antioxidant defence agents confer pyrethroid resistance in Nilaparvata lugens. Biochemical Journal 357: 65-72. PMID: 11415437

View the full list of publications

Contact

Postal Address:
Dept Biology, Voutes (PO Box 2208), 71409 Heraklio, Crete, Greece

OR

Pesticide Science lab, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, 11855, Athens, Greece
Phone:
+30 2810394077 (office, Crete)
+30 2810394438 (lab, Crete)
+30 2105294545 (office/lab Athens)
+30 6932977437 (mobile)