Hillyer lab research interests


The Hillyer Lab is interested in physiological and immunological processes that occur in the mosquito hemocoel.  Understanding how the hemocoel functions is essential for several reasons.  First, all internal organs are contained within this body cavity; understanding the mechanisms by which these tissues communicate is a vital but poorly understood component of mosquito biology.  Second, mosquito hemocytes (immune cells) circulate throughout the hemocoel and are responsible for limiting infection in this and other tissues (e.g., the midgut).  Third, for the continuation of their life cycles, mosquito borne-pathogens that are acquired with a blood meal must leave the midgut and traverse the hemocoel until they either invade the salivary glands or come to rest in the mosquito’s mouthparts.  Because of the global importance of this compartment in vital physiological and immunological processes, we expect that a better understanding of its biology will contribute to the development of novel pest and disease control strategies.

Our research, which is of interest to insect physiologists, vector biologists, comparative immunologists and evolutionary biologists, can be divided into three independent but complementary topics:

Mosquito innate immunity  - This research aims to uncover basic aspects of mosquito immunology, specifically focusing on the hemocyte-mediated control of systemic infections, and the effect of hemolymph flow patterns on the effectiveness of these responses.  For more information on this research click HERE.

Mosquito hemolymph circulation - This research aims to uncover how mosquitoes propel hemolymph to all areas of the body, including the structural and functional characterization of the major hemolymph pumping organs, as well as the hormonal control of these contractions.  For more information on this research click HERE.

Host-parasite interactions - This research aims to understand the process of pathogen migration through the mosquito hemocoel and the immune responses mounted against them during their journey to the salivary glands or mouthparts.  For more information on this research click HERE.

Mosquito Integrative immunology and physiology

The Hillyer Lab is located in a state-of-the-art building containing a world-class insectary facility and top-of-the-line research microscopes.