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Dr. Kevin Wanner

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Department of Entomology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
505 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801 USA
Ph: 217-333-0489
Fax: 217-244-3499

Email: kwanner"at"


C.V.     Publications   Applied Entomology Experience   Teaching Philosophy

Queen headSeptember 04, 2007

In the Robertson lab my research focuses on the genomics and functional genomics of the insect chemical senses. The last decade has witnessed tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and neurological mechanisms of olfaction, including the chemoreceptor superfamily, a large multigene family of G-protein coupled receptors expressed in sensory neurons that detect chemical stimuli in the environment. Technological advances (advent of whole genome sequencing, high-throughput cDNA sequencing and in vitro functional assays for chemoreceptors) have positioned this field for tremendous and exciting progress broadly outside of traditional model organisms. I employ gene annotation, gene phylogeny, high throughput sequencing and gene expression analysis (microarrays, quantitative real-time PCR, northern blotting and in situ hybridization) to guide functional studies. We are currently expressing odorant and gustatory receptor (Ors and Grs) genes in Xenopus oocytes and insect cells to characterize their activation by chemical stimuli. Other methods have included protein expression and purification, western blotting and in vitro ligand binding assays using fluorescent reporters.

My goal is to use functional genomics to study behaviors mediated by the chemical senses, across several levels of biological organization in a multidisciplinary approach, from genes and genomics to behavior and ecology. Towards this goal I have begun to employ traditional chemical ecology methods such as volatile collection, analysis by GC-MS, and behavioral assays using a custom-built olfactometer. We are using chemoreceptors expressed in the Xenopus oocyte system as a novel screening assay to identify semiochemicals from the solvent extracts of insects and plants. Having previous experience in applied entomology I am interested in developing a combined basic and applied research program that is complementary, the emerging field of molecular chemical ecology provides excellent opportunities for this. Along with collaborators I have established four projects areas:

Moths, bees and parasitic wasps represent diverse and contrasting insect groups that have economic, scientific and social significance. Moth larvae are significant pests of food and fiber crops world-wide while bees and parasitic wasps are beneficial as pollinators and natural enemies of insect pests, respectively. Furthermore, these three species occupy very different ecological niches (herbivores, plant symbionts and insect parasitoids); functional genomics provides insights into the evolution of their chemosensory systems in response to the very different olfactory and gustatory needs associated with each niche.

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