Olfaction offers a wealth of biological problems awaiting understanding in molecular terms. We’re interested in the remarkable sensitivity of the olfactory system, its ability to distinguish among odors, and the mechanisms by which sensory input is translated into behavioral output. Drosophila has a highly sophisticated olfactory system, which we study with molecular, genetic, physiological, computational, and behavioral approaches.
Drosophila is able to taste a remarkable diversity of organic molecules. We discovered a family of 60 seven-transmembrane-domain genes, the Gr genes, and showed that they encode taste receptors. Recently we found that a group of ~35 ionotropic receptors are expressed in taste neurons, opening diverse avenues for exploration of taste coding and behavior. Two of these ionotropic receptors are likely to act in males in the recognition of suitable female mating partners. Our overarching goal is to define the functional organization of the taste system and the logic by which it encodes chemical information.
We are interested in how insects such as the malaria mosquito and the tsetse fly use their chemosensory systems to detect and locate human hosts. The work may lead to new means of controlling the transmission of malaria and African sleeping sickness.