Molecular Entomology / Pesticide Science Lab
(Vontas Group)


PI: John Vontas


Scopus Author ID: 6603094639


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 a Lecturer at AUA in 2005, as an Associate Professor at the University of Crete in 2009 and as a Director of the Applied Biology and Biotechnology Division from 2010 to 2012. I spent a brief period at the LSTM again from 2012 to 2013 working for IVCC 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 since 2014.

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
  • Reviewer for many Funding Organizations (MRC - UK, ANR - France - member of Panel since 2014, BBSRC - UK, ISF - Israel, BARD - Israel, FWO - Belgium, RPF - France, Welcome Trust - UK, NCSTE - Kazakhstan, Research Agency - Slovak Republic, FTC-Portugal - Panel member since 2018)
  • Chairman of External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC 4), Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC)
  • Advisory Committee, Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) (2018-)
  • Member of Scientific Advisory Committee - Sector Biosciences (General Secretary Research and Technology, Greece) (2018-)
  • Representative of IMBB- FORTH to the Regional of Crete for Innovation matters (2015 -)

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 validation 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) screening 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/Recent Major Research Grants

SuperPests INFRAVEC2 European Commission DMC-Malvec
Bayer CropScience AG
  • SuperPests, Horizon H2020-2016-2017, Innovations in plant protection (SFS-17-2017), Innovative tools for rational control of the most difficult-to-manage pests ("super pests") and the diseases they transmit (Project coordinator) https://www.superpests.eu/
  • Bayer CropScience AG, 2017-2021, Discovery of Novel Insecticide Targets (Project coordinator)
  • INFRAVEC2 (Grant Agreement number: 731060), 2017-2020, «Research Infrastructures for the control of vector-borne diseases» (Project partner) https://infravec2.eu  
  • EU HORIZON 2020, «Automated diagnostic platform, data management system and innovative communication tool, for improving the impact of malaria vector control interventions» (Project coordinator) https://www.dmc-malvec.eu/

The Group

Mavridis Kostas

Kostas Mavridis, CV
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Molecular Diagnostics,
konstantinos_mavridis@imbb.forth.gr

Evangelia Morou

Evangelia Morou, CV
Project/Lab Manager ,
evangelia_morou@imbb.forth.gr

Sofia Foukaraki

Sofia Foukaraki, CV
Project Manager,
sofia_foukaraki@imbb.forth.gr


Vasileia Balabanidou

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

Maria Riga

Maria Riga, CV
Post Doctoral Research Accociate,
RNAi and functional assays - insecticide resistance,
maria_riga@imbb.forth.gr

Megha Kalsi

Megha Kalsi, CV
Post Doctoral Research Accociate,
Biotechnology based approaches for insecticide target discovery,
megha_kalsi@imbb.forth.gr

Shane M. Denecke

Shane M. Denecke, CV
Post Doctoral Research Associate,
Biotechnology based approaches for insecticide target discovery,
shane_denecke@imbb.forth.gr

Aris Ilias

Aris Ilias, CV
Post Doctoral Research Accociate,
Insecticide resistance/transcriptomics/gut physiology,
aris_ilias@imbb.forth.gr

Elena Vorgia

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


Panagiotis Ioannidis

Panagiotis Ioannidis, CV
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Bioinformatics & Insect Genomics ,
panagiotis_ioannidis@imbb.forth.gr

Dimitra Tsakireli

Dimitra Tsakireli, CV
Technician: protein expression - characterization of recombinant enzymes - interactions with xenobiotics, HPLC/MS ,
dimitra_tsakireli@imbb.forth.gr

Sofia Kaforou

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


Ngoc Bao Hang (Jenny) Luong

Ngoc Bao Hang (Jenny) Luong, CV
Postdoctoral Research Associate - Drosophila molecular genetics and bioassays, ngocbaohangjenny_luong@imbb.forth.gr

Max Fotakis

Max Fotakis, CV
Postdoctoral Research Associate - Analysis of vector born disease epidemiological risks ,
bio1763@gmail.com

Kyriaki-Maria Papapostolou

Kyriaki-Maria Papapostolou, CV
PhD Student - Functional characterization of detoxification genes and discovery of novel insecticide targets in pests of agricultural and medical importance,
kyriaki_papapostolou@imbb.forth.gr


Natasa Kampouraki

Natasa Kampouraki, CV
PhD Student - Analysis of insecticide resistance in the olive fruit fly Bactrocera oleae
(Insectory, Bioassays, RNAi),
kampouraki.an@gmail.com

Rafaela Panteleri

Rafaela Panteleri,
PhD Student - CRISPR: advanced systems for evaluating resistance mutations in drosophila and cell based assays for insecticide targets discovery, rafaela_panteleri@imbb.forth.gr

Giorgos Samantsidis

Giorgos Samantsidis, CV
PhD Student - Analysis of insecticide resistance pathways (drosophila) and gut specific promotors (lepidoptera), georgios_samantsidis@imbb.forth.gr

Mary Kefi

Mary Kefi, CV
PhD Student - The 'Achilles heel' of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae,
mary_kefi@imbb.forth.gr

Eva Katsavou

Eva Katsavou, CV
PhD Student - Insecticide resistance mechanisms in the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae and cytochrome P450s, evangeliakatsav@gmail.com

Spyros Vlogianitis

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

Venetia Koidou

Venetia Koidou, CV
PhD student - Olive fruit fly biotechnology (CRISPR) and interactions with Erwinia dacicola,
venetia_koidou@imbb.forth.gr

Sofia Balaska

Sofia Balaska, CV
PhD student - Analysis of insecticide resistance in sandflies and biotechnology based application for vector control,
sofia_balaska@imbb.forth.gr

Amalia Anthousi

Amalia Anthousi, CV
PhD Student - Functional characterization of insecticide resistance mechanisms in agricultural pests and vectors of diseases using CRISPR/Cas9 genome modifications,
amalia_anthousi@imbb.forth.gr

Jason Charamis

Jason Charamis, CV
PhD Student - Genomic and transcriptomic analysis of pesticide resistance in mosquitoes and agricultural pests,
jason_charamis@imbb.forth.gr



Current Master Students / Projects (2019/20):

  • Konstantinos Parasyris: Elucidation of the role of CYP4G genes in cuticular hydrocarbon biosynthesis
  • Martha Tselika: Functional characterization of ACCase resistance mutations


ALUMNI:

  • Vassilis Douris: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Applications and Technology, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece
  • Linda Grigoraki: Post Doctoral Researcher Associate, LSTM
  • Nena Pavlidi: Post Doctoral Researcher University of Amsterdam
  • Ilias Kioulos: Lecturer, Agricultural University of Athens
  • Vassiliki Bariami: Post Doctoral Researcher

Publications

Recent

  • Ingham VA, Anthousi A, Douris V, Harding NJ, Lycett G, Morris M, Vontas J, Ranson H (2020) A sensory appendage protein protects malaria vectors from pyrethroids. Nature. 577(7790):376-380 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1864-1. PMID: 31875852
  • Balabanidou V, Kefi M, Aivaliotis M, Koidou V, Girotti JR, Mijailovsky SJ, Juárez MP, Papadogiorgaki E, Chalepakis G, Kampouraki A, Nikolaou C, Ranson H, Vontas J. (2019) Mosquitoes cloak their legs to resist insecticides. Proc R Soc B. 286(1907):20191091. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2019.1091. PMID: 31311476
  • Vontas J, Grigoraki L, Morgan J, Tsakireli D, Fuseini G, Segura L, Niemczura de Carvahlo J, Nguema R, Weetman D, Slotman MA, Hemingway J. (2018) Rapid selection of a pyrethroid metabolic enzyme CYP9K1 by operational malaria control activities. PNAS. 115(18):4619-4624. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1719663115. PMID:29674455
  • Balabanidou V, Grigoraki L, Vontas J. (2018) Insect cuticle: a critical determinant of insecticide resistance. Curr Opin Insect Sci. 27:68-74. DOI:10.1016/j.cois.2018.03.001 PMID:30025637
  • Kefi M, Mavridis K, Simões ML, Dimopoulos G, Siden-Kiamos I, Vontas J. (2018) New rapid one-step PCR diagnostic assay for Plasmodium falciparum infective mosquitoes. Sci Rep. 8(1):1462. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-19780-6. PMID: 29362379
  • 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. PNAS. 114(29): E5871-5880. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1706865114. PMID: 28674017
  • Douris V, Steinbach D, Panteleri R, Livadaras I, Pickett JA, Van Leeuwen T, Nauen R, Vontas J. (2016) Resistance mutation conserved between insects and mites unravels the benzoylurea insecticide mode of action on chitin biosynthesis. PNAS. 113(51):14692-14697. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1618258113. PMID: 27930336
  • Balabanidou V, Kampouraki A, MacLean M, Blomquist GJ, Tittiger C, Juarez MP, Mijailovsky SJ, Chalepakis G, Anthousi A, Lynd A, Antoine S, Hemingway J, Ranson H, Lycett GJ, Vontas J. (2016) Cytochrome P450 associated with insecticide resistance catalyzes cuticular hydrocarbon production in Anopheles gambiae. PNAS. 113(33):9268-9273. 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. 74:61-67. DOI:10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.05.007. PMID: 27180726
  • 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. Pestic Biochem Physiol. 121:3-11. DOI: 10.1016/j.pestbp. PMID: 26047106
  • Vontas J, Moore S, Kleinschmidt I, Ranson H, Lindsay S, Lengeler C, Hamon N, McLean T, Hemingway J. (2014) Framework for rapid assessment and adoption of new vector control tools. Trends Parasitol. 30(4):191-204. DOI:10.1016/j.pt.2014.02.005. PMID: 24657042


Selected Publications

  • Ingham VA, Anthousi A, Douris V, Harding NJ, Lycett G, Morris M, Vontas J, Ranson H (2020) A sensory appendage protein protects malaria vectors from pyrethroids. Nature. 577(7790):376-380 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1864-1. PMID: 31875852
  • Singh KS, Troczka BJ, Duarte A, Balabanidou V, Trissi N, Carabajal Paladino LZ, Nguyen P, Zimmer CT, Papapostolou KM, Randall E, Lueke B, Marec F, Mazzoni E, Williamson MS, Hayward A, Nauen R, Vontas J, Bass C. (2020) The genetic architecture of a host shift: An adaptive walk protected an aphid and its endosymbiont from plant chemical defenses. Sci. Adv. 6(19): eaba1070. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1070
  • Koidou V, Denecke S, Ioannidis P, Vlatakis I, Livadaras I, Vontas J. (2020) Efficient genome editing in the olive fruit fly, Bactrocera oleae. Insect Mol Biol. 29(4):363-372. DOI:10.1111/imb.12640. PMID: 32141659
  • Balabanidou V, Kefi M, Aivaliotis M, Koidou V, Girotti JR, Mijailovsky SJ, Juárez MP, Papadogiorgaki E, Chalepakis G, Kampouraki A, Nikolaou C, Ranson H, Vontas J. (2019) Mosquitoes cloak their legs to resist insecticides. Proc R Soc B. 286(1907):20191091. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2019.1091. PMID: 31311476
  • Vontas J, Grigoraki L, Morgan J, Tsakireli D, Fuseini G, Segura L, Niemczura de Carvahlo J, Nguema R, Weetman D, Slotman MA, Hemingway J. (2018) Rapid selection of a pyrethroid metabolic enzyme CYP9K1 by operational malaria control activities. PNAS. 115(18):4619-4624. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1719663115. PMID: 29674455
  • Balabanidou V, Grigoraki L, Vontas J. (2018) Insect cuticle: a critical determinant of insecticide resistance. Curr Opin Insect Sci. 27:68-74. DOI:10.1016/j.cois.2018.03.001 PMID:30025637
  • Kefi M, Mavridis K, Simões ML, Dimopoulos G, Siden-Kiamos I, Vontas J. (2018) New rapid one-step PCR diagnostic assay for Plasmodium falciparum infective mosquitoes. Sci Rep. 8(1):1462. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-19780-6. PMID: 29362379
  • 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. PNAS. 114(29): E5871-5880. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1706865114. PMID: 28674017
  • Douris V, Steinbach D, Panteleri R, Livadaras I, Pickett JA, Van Leeuwen T, Nauen R, Vontas J. (2016) Resistance mutation conserved between insects and mites unravels the benzoylurea insecticide mode of action on chitin biosynthesis. PNAS. 113(51):14692-14697. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1618258113. PMID: 27930336
  • Balabanidou V, Kampouraki A, MacLean M, Blomquist GJ, Tittiger C, Juarez MP, Mijailovsky SJ, Chalepakis G, Anthousi A, Lynd A, Antoine S, Hemingway J, Ranson H, Lycett GJ, Vontas J. (2016) Cytochrome P450 associated with insecticide resistance catalyzes cuticular hydrocarbon production in Anopheles gambiae. PNAS. 113(33):9268-9273. 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. 74:61-67. DOI:10.1016/j.ibmb.2016.05.007. PMID: 27180726
  • Riga M, Myridakis A, Tsakireli D, Morou E, Stephanou EG, Nauen R, Van Leeuwen T, Douris V, Vontas J. (2015) Functional characterization of the Tetranychus urticae CYP392A11, a cytochrome P450 that hydroxylates the METI acaricides cyenopyrafen and fenpyroximate. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 65:91-99. DOI:10.1016/j.ibmb.2015.09.004. PMID: 26363294
  • Hemingway J, Vontas J, Poupardin R, Raman J, Lines J, Schwabe C, Matias A, Kleinschmidt I. (2013) Country-level operational implementation of the Global Plan for Insecticide Resistance Management. PNAS. 110(23):9397-9402. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1307656110. PMID: 23696658
  • Dermauw W, Wybouw N, Rombauts S, Menten B, Vontas J, Grbic M, Clark RM, Feyereisen R, Van Leeuwen T. (2013) A link between host plant adaptation and pesticide resistance in the polyphagous spider mite Tetranychus urticae. PNAS. 110(2):E113-E122. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1213214110. PMID: 23248300

View the full list of publications

Contact

Postal Address:
Foundation for Research and Technology, FORTH
Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, IMBB
Molecular Entomology Lab
Nikolaou Plastira 100
Heraklion 70013
Crete, Greece

OR

Pesticide Science lab, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, 11855, Athens, Greece
Phone:
+30 2810394077, +30 2810391136 (office, Crete)
+30 2810394438 (lab, Crete)
+30 2105294545 (office/lab Athens)
+30 6932977437 (mobile)