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Jurgen Moonen


Track: 14 & 24, Vector immunity in changing scenario’s & Modulating mosquito immunity



prof. dr. Eric van Gorp, prof. dr. Frederique Bartumeus


Pascal Miesen


Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS)

Description PhD project

Mosquitoes are important vectors for the transmission of viruses that are pathogenic for humans or animals. Aedes albopictus, commonly called the Asian tiger mosquito, is a mosquito that originates to the (sub)tropical areas of Southeast Asia, but it has spread to many countries in the world through international transport and travel. The spread of Aedes albopictus is concerning as it is an important vector for many pathogenic viruses such as yellow fever, dengue, and Chikungunya virus.

Aedes albopictus has been found in the Netherlands, but is not yet an established species here. However, Aedes albopictus is already established in Italy and France and has caused there several outbreaks of autochthonous chikungunya and dengue virus infections in recent years. Seeing the fact that Aedes albopictus is rapidly spreading across Europe it can be expected that this species will also establish itself in the Netherlands in the foreseeable future. This PhD project aims to gain thorough understanding of the vector competence and immune response of Aedes albopictus to arboviruses under different climate conditions. This knowledge could allow us to modulate mosquito immunity which could contribute to reducing the transmission of arboviruses which is crucial to prepare the Netherlands for potential future outbreaks of arboviruses in the Netherlands.

Research questions / objectives

  1. What is the immune response of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes to different arboviruses (target viruses of OneHealthPACT) in vivo and in vitro? Transcriptional responses (RNAseq and small RNAseq, NF-kB, JAK-STAT, RNAi) followed by functional/mechanistic assays of the importance of these pathways. How is the response affected by ‘change scenarios’?
  2. What is the composition of the natural virome of wild-caught Dutch Aedes (japonicus) mosquitoes?*.
  3. Do Aedes resident viruses affect vector competence of Aedes albopictus? Can resident viruses be used to induce immunity to arboviruses.
  4. Is there a difference in in vivo tropism of mosquito specific and mosquito-transmitted viruses (histopathology)?

*It is currently unclear whether it is feasible to map out and test both viruses and bacteria from Dutch Aedes We will start with mapping out the virome.  


Tags matching with the contents of track 14/24


  • Labwork

    • PCR: Can be used to study the expression of immunity related genes (quantitative PCR)
    • ELISA: Can be used to look at factors involved in immunity on the protein level
    • RNA/DNA extraction: Essential for many different wet lab approaches
    • In vivo: I will work with mosquitoes
    • In vitro: I will work with mosquito cells
    • Next generation sequencing (NGS): 1) To study the virome of the mosquitoes. 2) To perform RNAseq to study mosquito immunity on a large scale
    • Molecular Cloning: I will probably use this technique during my PhD
    • Plaque Assay: Will probably be part of the virus work that I will be doing


    • Literature review: I hope to write a literature review about antiviral immune pathways of Aedes albopictus


  • Vector:

    • Vector immune response: This is the core topic of my PhD
    • Vector susceptibility: Vector susceptibility is, in addition to vector immunity, important for my project
    • Vector competence: Vector competence is, in addition to vector immunity, important for my project


    • Virus-mosquito interaction: I will look into the immune response of the mosquito against various viruses


  • Species:

    • Mosquito: I will be studying only mosquito immunity


  • Virus:

    • Virus (general): I will probably look at multiple different viruses that are able to be transmitted by Aedes albopictus