ABOUT THE LAB: Animals depend on their temperature sensory systems to avoid noxious thermal extremes and to seek optimal temperatures for survival. Temperature sensation is particularly important for small animals, such as insects, because they rely on the ambient temperatures to set their body temperatures. Many insect vectors of diseases, including mosquitoes, transmit human diseases by responding to the temperature of their warm-blooded hosts and use it to guide their blood-feeding behaviors. Therefore, determining cellular and molecular bases, as well as neural circuits, of insect temperature sensation will offer insight into ways to potentially regulate the spread of vector-borne diseases. Our lab is using fruit flies to study this question.


  1. Demonstrate the function of second- and higher-order thermosensory neurons. trans-Tango is a trans-synaptic method to label postsynaptic neurons. We will combine trans-Tango with optogenetic and other fly genetic components to sparsely label, manipulate, and probe functions of second- and higher-order thermosensory neurons.
  2. Identify larval warm receptors and their functions. Recently, we have identified two warm sensory neurons in each dorsal organ ganglion that control warm avoidance. We are using fly genetics, behavioral assays, optogenetics, and calcium imaging to understand the molecular basis and functions of these warm sensors.
  3. Understand how thermal molecules respond to temperatures. Different temperature-responsive molecules have been identified from bacteria to humans. However, it is unknown how these molecules respond to temperatures. We will use different fly species to answer this question. Different fly species behave differently on different thermotactic assays. Each thermotactic behavior is controlled by a distinctive thermal molecule. Thus, we would identify the molecular mechanisms for temperature sensation by comparing thermal molecules in different fly species.


  • NIH R21: Develop functional trans-Tango to identify higher-order neurons with determined functions. Grant duration: 4/2020 – 3/2022
  • NIH R01: Demonstrate the molecular receptor and functions of dorsal organ warm cells in flies. Grant duration: 12/2020 – 11/2025

Updated on Sep 7, 2021