Molecular Entomology / Pesticide Science Lab
(Vontas Group)


PI: John Vontas


Scopus Author ID: 6603094639


Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology
Foundation for Research and Technology,
Hellas (IMBB-FORTH)

Institute of Molecular Biology

Professor

Agricultural University of Athens
 

Agricultural University of Athens

Areas of interest

Understanding the mechanisms by which disease vectors and agricultural pests develop resistance to insecticides, as well as exploring novel insecticide targets and biotechnology based approaches to control insects.

Background

  • 2021-today
    Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas (IMBB-FORTH)
  • 2014-today
    Professor Agr Pharmacology AUA & Researcher Molecular Entomology IMBB-FORTH
  • 2013-2014
    Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) (sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Role: development of framework and criteria for research funding in “New Paradigms” in vector borne disease control).
  • 2008-2013
    University of Crete, Department Biology, Associate Professor Biotechnology & Applied Biology
  • 2005-2008
    AUA, Assistant Professor Agr Pharmacology
  • 2002-2005
    IMBB-FORTH, Post Doc Research Fellow
  • 2001-2002
    Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (Post Doc Research Fellow)
  • 1998-2001
    Cardiff University, School of Biosciences (Post Doc Research Fellow)
  • 1993-1997
    Agricultural University of Athens (AUA), PhD Insect Genetics,

Professional memberships etc.

  • Panel member in many Funding Organizations (EU – several panels, ANR-France, FCT-Portugal, MRC etc)
  • Chairman of External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC 4), Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) (2015+)
  • Associate Editor (Europe-UK) Pesticide Biochemistry & Physiology
  • 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, Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology etc
  • Reviewer for > 50 Peer Review Journals (including Nature, Science, PNAS ..)
  • Evaluator: MRC, ANR-FR, BBSRC - UK, ISF - Israel, BARD - Israel, FWO - Belgium, RPF - France, Welcome Trust - UK, NCSTE - Kazakhstan, Research Agency - Slovak Republic, Science Fund – Serbia, FCT-Portugal;, CINECA-Italy,
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) (2018-)
  • Member of Scientific Advisory Committee - Sector Biosciences (General Secretary Research and Technology, Greece) (2018-)
  • Member of several committees (Ministry/Regional of Crete etc) for Public Health, Pesticides and Innovation matters
  • Organizer/Co-organizer of many congress and symposia worldwide (such as the biannual Mosquito EMBO Conference (Kolymbari, Crete)

Teaching experience

Supervised ~20 PhD students and >30 master. Teaching in several undergraduate and postgraduate courses for ~20 years

Research

Insecticide Resistance

We investigate the mechanisms by which insects develop resistance to insecticides. Our approaches include classical bioassays and biotechnology-based approaches for the identification and validation of resistance mechanisms. The latter include recombinant enzyme-based techniques, in vivo functional approaches (ectopically expressed genes, CRISPR/Cas9 etc), immunolocalisation, electron microscopy (TEM, SEM) etc. Several insecticide resistance mechanisms in mosquitoes and agricultural pests were functionally elucidated recently (Figure 1, 2 and 3).

Insecticide resistant Anopheles gambiae walking apathetic on impregnated bednets


Figure 1. Insecticide resistant Anopheles gambiae "walking apathetic" on impregnated bednets. Modification of epicuticular hydrocarbons and remodeling of leg cuticles, as well as the overexpression of leg-enriched sensory appendage proteins (SAP2) confers pyrethroid resistance, by sequestering and substantially delaying insecticide uptake, giving time to detoxification mechanisms to detoxify them, thus producing striking insecticide resistance phenotypes. Ingham VA, et al. (2020) Nature 577:376-380; Balabanidou et al. (2019) Proc R Soc B 286:20191091

Operation of a rare evolutionary strategy for circumventing pesticide resistance in the major bee parasite


Figure 2. Operation of a rare evolutionary strategy for circumventing pesticide resistance in the major bee parasite. Reduced proinsecticide activation by cytochrome P450 confers coumaphos resistance in the major bee parasite Varroa destructor (Vlogiannitis et al (2021) PNAS 118, e2020380118)



Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome modification


Figure 3. Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome modification to understand the genetic basis of insecticide resistance (Douris et al (2020) Pest Biochem Phys. 167:104595

Biotechnology based approaches for novel insecticides targets

Holistic biotechnology based approaches using state-of the-art technologies (transcriptomics, proteomics, functional and cell based assays – Pharma models) are applied to enable the identification of potential molecular targets in insect pests and mosquitoes, as well as elucidate the insecticide pharmacokinetics (cross midgut epithelium etc – Denecke et al IBMB 103, 22-35).

Insecticide resistant Anopheles gambiae walking apathetic on impregnated bednets
Operation of a rare evolutionary strategy for circumventing pesticide resistance in the major bee parasite

Current/Recent Major Research Grants

SuperPests INFRAVEC2 European Commission DMC-Malvec
Bayer CropScience AG
SYNGENTA
  • SYNGENTA 2021-2023 Fundamental insect P450 expression and characterization (Project Coordinator)
  • 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)
  • CypTox, Horizon 2020-MSCA-RISE-2020, Training next level scientists and researchers to develop highly selective and safe insecticides (Project Coordinator) https://cyptox.eu/site/
  • 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

Linda Grigoraki

Linda Grigoraki, CV
Visiting Research Fellow (LSTM)
linta.grigoraki@lstmed.ac.uk


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

Panagiotis Ioannidis

Panagiotis Ioannidis, CV
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Bioinformatics & Insect Genomics ,
panagiotis_ioannidis@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

Max Fotakis

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

Giorgos Samantsidis

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


Dimitra Tsakireli

Dimitra Tsakireli, CV
Research Technician/PhD Student: Protein expression (cytochrome P450s)-interactions with xenobiotics,
dimitra_tsakireli@imbb.forth.gr

Sofia Kaforou

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

Natasa Kampouraki

Natasa Kampouraki, CV
Post Doctoral Research Associate - Olive fruit flies and Mosquito populations from Greece
(Insectory, Bioassays, genoityping),
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

Spyros Vlogianitis

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

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

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

Jason Charamis

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

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

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




Current Master Students / Projects (2021/22):

  • Manos Kokkas: Functional analysis of insecticide resistance mechanisms in vectors of diseases using genome modifications
  • Melina Fotiadou: Biotechnology based approaches for the discovery and validation of novel insecticide target


ALUMNI:

  • Vassilis Douris: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Applications and Technology, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece
  • Nena Pavlidi: Post Doctoral Researcher University of Amsterdam
  • Ilias Kioulos: Lecturer, Agricultural University of Athens
  • Vassiliki Bariami: Post Doctoral Researcher
  • Elena Vorgia: Post Doctoral Researcher, Department of Medicine, University of Crete
  • Aris Ilias: Research Associate ELGO-DIMITRA
  • Ngoc Bao Hang (Jenny) Luong: Research Associate Penn University
  • Megha Kalsi: TECHNICAL Director, USA

Publications

Scopus Author ID: 6603094639


View the full list of publications

Recent

  • Vlogiannitis S, Mavridis K, Dermauw W, Snoeck S, Katsavou E, Morou E, Harizanis P, Swevers L, Hemingway J, Feyereisen R, Van Leeuwen T, Vontas J. (2021) Reduced proinsecticide activation by cytochrome P450 confers coumaphos resistance in the major bee parasite Varroa destructor. PNAS. 118(6):e2020380118. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2020380118. PMID: 33547243
  • 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
  • Samantsidis GR, Panteleri R, Denecke S, Kounadi S, Christou I, Nauen R, Douris V, Vontas J. (2020) 'What I cannot create, I do not understand': Functionally validated synergism of metabolic and target site insecticide resistance. Proc Biol Sci. 287(1927):20200838. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.0838. PMID: 32453986
  • 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. PMID: 32494720
  • 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.


Selected Publications

  • Nauen R, Bass C, Feyereisen R, Vontas J. (2022) The Role of Cytochrome P450s in Insect Toxicology and Resistance. Annu Rev Entomol. 67:105-124. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-ento-070621-061328. PMID: 34590892
  • Vlogiannitis S, Mavridis K, Dermauw W, Snoeck S, Katsavou E, Morou E, Harizanis P, Swevers L, Hemingway J, Feyereisen R, Van Leeuwen T, Vontas J. (2021) Reduced proinsecticide activation by cytochrome P450 confers coumaphos resistance in the major bee parasite Varroa destructor. PNAS. 118(6):e2020380118. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2020380118. PMID: 33547243
  • 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. PMID: 32494720
  • 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

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)