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 - Kazankstan, FTC-Portugal - Panel member since 2018)
  • Chairman of External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC 4), Innovative Vector control Consortium Control (IVCC)
  • Advisory Board member, Hellenic Foundation for Research & Innovation (2018-2022)
  • Member of Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) General Assembly (elected AUA representative) (2016 -)
  • Member of Scientific Advisory Board - 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

Currect/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/
  • 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) - (Project partner)
  • GSRT-HSR Technology 2013-2016 (Aristeia), Genomic approaches for understanding xenobiotic detoxification of the olive fruit fly (Project coordinator)
  • GSRT (2018-2021) "Technology Platform for Developing Applications for Hydrolysis of a-Carbon in Medicine and Biotechnology" (Project partner)

The Group

Mavridis Kostas

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

Evangelia Morou

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

Sofia Foukaraki

Sofia Foukaraki, CV
Postdoctoral Research Associate,
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

Vassilis Douris

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

Shane M. Denecke

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

Aris Ilias

Aris Ilias, CV
Post Doctoral Research Accociate,
Insecticide resistance/transcriptomics/gut physiology,
arishlias@yahoo.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 ,
dimitsaki@yahoo.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
Research Assistant - Drosophila molecular genetics and bioassays, baohangluong@gmail.com

Iason Christou

Iason Christou,
PhD Student - The role of ABC transporters in the ability of small insecticidal molecules to cross gut epithelium, iason_christou@imbb.forth.gr

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, rpantele@gmail.com

Giorgos Samantsidis

Giorgos Samantsidis, CV
PhD Student - Innovative methods for insect control, insecticide target discovery and analysis of insecticide resistance mechanisms using transgenic approaches, gsamantsidis@outlook.com.gr

Mary Kefi

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

Max Fotakis

Max Fotakis, CV
PhD Student - Analysis of vector born disease epidemiological risks in refugee hot spots / Mosquito resistance and innovative method for control ,
bio1763@gmail.com

Spyros Vlogianitis

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

Eva Katsavou

Eva Katsavou, CV
PhD Student - Functional characterization of detoxification genes associated with insecticide resistance, evangeliakatsav@gmail.com



Current Master Students / Projects (2018/19):

  • Evaggelia Skoufa: Functional and immunohistochemical characterization of detoxification enzymes in agricultural pests and vectors of human diseases
  • Sofia Balaska: Application diagnostics for mosquito vector incrimination and innovative biotechnology-based methods for disease control
  • Mantha Lamprousi: Biotechnology-based insect cell approaches for novel insecticide targets


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

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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
  • Vontas J, Hernández-Crespo P, Margaritopoulos JT, Ortego F, Feng HT, Mathiopoulos KD, Hsu JC. (2011) Insecticide resistance in Tephritid flies. Pestic Biochem Phys. 100(3):199-205. DOI:10.1016/j.pestbp.2011.04.004
  • Karunker I, Morou E, Nikou D, Nauen R, Sertchook R, Stevenson BJ, Paine MJI, Morin S, Vontas J. (2009) Structural model and functional characterization of the Bemisia tabaci CYP6CM1vQ, a cytochrome P450 associated with high levels of imidacloprid resistance. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 39(10):697-706. DOI:10.1016/j.ibmb.2009.08.006. PMID: 19716416
  • Hemingway J, Field L, Vontas J. (2002) An overview of insecticide resistance. Sci. 298(5591):96-97. DOI:10.1126/science.1078052. PMID: 12364782
  • Vontas JG, Small GJ, Nikou DC, Ranson H, Hemingway J. (2002) Purification, molecular cloning and heterologous expression of a glutathione S-transferase involved in insecticide resistance from the rice brown planthopper, Nilaparvata lugens. Biochem J. 362:329-337. DOI:10.1042/0264-6021:3620329. PMID: 11853540

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)