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(BBSRC DTP) Comparative Genomics of odorant genes in Anopheles mosquitoes

Project Description

As humans have increased in number and spread around the globe they provide novel and potentially rich sources of food for a variety of pests and pathogens, including mosquitoes. Not surprisingly therefore, several mosquito species have adapted to feed preferentially on this abundant food source, potentially also triggering speciation. Understanding adaptation to man-influenced environments, and its links to speciation, is of fundamental interest to the study of evolution as well as being of substantial concern for the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases to both humans and animals. This study will focus on the Anopheles leucosphyrus group of mosquitoes which is found throughout much of Southeast and South Asia and contains several species that tend to feed either on humans or on other primates.

Host specificity and associated speciation in mosquitoes is thought to be driven by the evolution of genes involved in olfaction as comparisons of genomic sequences show a high turnover of these genes between mosquito species and high dN/dS ratios. Olfaction in mosquitoes involves the products of several different gene families: odorant binding proteins (OBPs) ionotropic receptors (IRs), gustatory receptors (GRs) and odorant receptors (ORs). This PhD will use a combination of targeted genome sequencing, comparative genomics and population genomics (and potentially also field-based behavioural studies) to characterise the evolution of ORs, OBPs, IRs and GRs within the An. leucosphyrus group and to identify associations between their evolution and switches in host feeding and speciation.

The student will gain diverse skills in: the generation and handling of sequence data; evolutionary genetics analysis including comparative genomics and population genomics: bioinformatics skills to generate and analyse next generation sequence data; and experimental and fieldwork skills to determine mosquito host choice.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


Ames, RM, et al. (2012) Determining the evolutionary history of gene families. Bioinform 28:48-55.

Kemppainen, P, et al. (2015) Linkage disequilibrium network analysis (LDna) gives a global view of chromosomal inversions, local adaptation and population structure. Mol Ecol Res 15:1031-1045.

Manoharan, M, et al. (2013) Comparative genomics of odorant binding proteins in Anopheles gambiae, Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus. Genome biology and evolution 5:163-80.

Neafsey, DE, et al. (2015) Highly evolvable malaria vectors: the genomes of 16 Anopheles mosquitoes. Science 347:1258522.

Suh, E, et al. (2014). Peripheral olfactory signaling in insects. Curr. Opin. Insect Sci. 6, 86–92.

How good is research at University of Manchester in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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