Molecular Basis of Insect Olfaction
& Chemical Ecology

Welcome to the research page of the Leal Lab in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences, at the University of California-Davis. We are interested in the molecular basis of insect olfaction, insect chemical communication, and chemical ecology. Current research projects are aimed at identification of pheromones, oviposition attractants, kairomones, and insect repellents, de-orphanization of odorant receptors, elucidation of the role(s) of odorant-binding proteins, and odorant-degrading enzymes.
Walter Leal
PI: Walter S. Leal, Ph.D, FRES (wsleal@ucdavis.edu)

Research activities in the Leal lab are aimed at unraveling the molecular mechanisms that make the olfactory system of insects so sensitive and selective. We are particularly interested in elucidating the roles of odorant-binding proteins, odorant receptors, and odorant-degrading enzymes. Albeit fundamental in nature, our research has short, medium, and long-term societal benefits. Insects are extremely successful animals whose lives intertwine with ours. They may be vegetarian and harmful to our food supply as well as vectors of pathogens that inflict tremendous suffering and human loses. Thus, a better understanding of the molecular basis of insect olfaction may facilitate the design of eco-friendly chemicals to controls insects of medical and agricultural importance.

Other than external collaborators, who should be credited for the work?

Dr. Pingxi Xu, Project Scientist (xupingxi@gmail.com)

Dr. Young-Moo Choo, Postdoctoral Scholar (ychoo@ucdavis.edu)

Fang Fang Zeng, Visiting Researcher (ffzeng@UCDAVIS.EDU)

Jiankun Yi, Visiting Researcher (jkyi@UCDAVIS.EDU)

Garrison Buss, Undergraduate Student (gkbuss@ucdavis.edu)

Kai Ming Tan, Undergraduate Student (ktan@ucdavis.edu)

Thao Tram, Undergraduate Student (tmhtran@ucdavis.edu)

Distance Graduate Students (Co-Advising, Ph.D. Students)
Graduate Program in Biochemistry, Institute of Chemistry Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, UFRJ)

Major Professor: Dr. Ana Claudia A. Melo (anamelo@iq.ufrj.br)

Thiago Andrade Franco (thiago.biovr@gmail.com)

Daniele Silva de Oliveira (dani_silva_1@hotmail.com)


Recent Publications

Mosquito odorant receptor for DEET and methyl jasmonate

Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Silencing the odorant receptor co-receptor RproOrco affects the physiology and behavior of the Chagas disease vector Rhodnius prolixus

Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Odorant receptor-based discovery of natural repellents of human lice
Credit: Wellcome Library, London
A head louse (Pediculus humanus). Coloured drawing by A.J.E. Terzi

Current Opinion in Insect Science
The enigmatic reception of DEET - the gold standard of insect repellents

American Entomologist
Deciphering the Rosetta Stone of Insect Chemical Communication
Rosetta Stone

Journal of Insect Science
Specificity of the receptor for the major sex pheromone component in Heliothis virescens
Receptor Specificity

Binding of a fluorescence reporter and a ligand to an odorant-binding protein of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti

Frontiers in Physiology
Selectivity of odorant-binding proteins from the southern house mosquito tested against physiologically relevant ligands

1-Octen-3-ol Ė the attractant that repels
Mosquitoes repelled by 1-Octen-3-ol


Current Opinion in Insect Science
The enigmatic reception of DEET - the gold standard of insect repellents

Frontiers in Physiology
Multitasking roles of mosquito labrum in oviposition and blood feeding

Snapshot of insect-fungus arms race

See Complete Bibliography
in Google Scholar

Research Activities in our Lab are Sponsored by:

National Institutes of Health-NIH
Gifts from Various Donors, including
Bedoukian Research Incorporation
Fuji Flavor Co.


Walter S. Leal
1107 Surge I
UC Davis / MCB

Phone: +1-530-752-7755


Site maintained by Walter S. Leal wsleal@ucdavis.edu.
Design was adapted from http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/ (by namnguyen@ucdavis.edu)
Last Updated: 12/16/15