Carolina Barillas-Mury, M.D., Ph.D.

NIH Distinguished Investigator

Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section


TW3 Building, Room 2E20
12735 Twinbrook Pkwy
Rockville, MD 20852


Research Topics

The Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section investigates the interactions between the mosquito immune system andPlasmodium parasites to understand how they affect malaria transmission.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Barillas-Mury on National Public Radio: The Cure for Malaria Could Be in a Mosquito's Gut

Time bomb model of ookinete invasion

Parasites inflict extensive damage as they migrate through midgut epithelial cells that ultimately leads to apoptosis. Nitric oxide synthase, an inducible heme peroxidase (HPx2) and NADPH oxidase 5 (NOX5) mediate nitration reactions in epithelial cells that have been invaded by ookinetes. Parasite exposure to these chemical reactions during their transit through the midgut cell modifies them and promotes recognition and activation of TEP1-mediated lysis. We propose that ookinetes have a limited time window to escape from midgut cells without being tagged, as these modifications lead to destruction by the mosquito complement-like defense system.


Time bomb model of parasite invasion of mosquito midgut epithelial cells

Time bomb model of parasite invasion of mosquito midgut epithelial cells (Download larger version)


Dr. Barillas received her B.S. in biology from the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala in 1981, her M.D. from Universidad Francisco Marroquín de Guatemala in 1985, and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Arizona in 1992. From 1992 to 1993, she did postdoctoral training at the University of Arizona. She then went to Harvard University in 1994 and the European Molecular Lab until 1998. She was an assistant professor in the department of microbiology, immunology, and pathology at Colorado State University from 1998 to 2003. She joined the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research in 2003 and became a senior investigator in 2010.

Selected Publications

  1. Ramirez JL, de Almeida Oliveira G, Calvo E, Dalli J, Colas RA, Serhan CN, Ribeiro JM, Barillas-Mury C. A mosquito lipoxin/lipocalin complex mediates innate immune priming in Anopheles gambiae. Nat Commun. 2015;6:7403.

  2. Castillo JC, Ferreira ABB, Trisnadi N, Barillas-Mury C. Activation of mosquito complement antiplasmodial response requires cellular immunity. Sci Immunol. 2017;2(7).

  3. Ramphul UN, Garver LS, Molina-Cruz A, Canepa GE, Barillas-Mury C. Plasmodium falciparum evades mosquito immunity by disrupting JNK-mediated apoptosis of invaded midgut cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(5):1273-80.

  4. Molina-Cruz A, Garver LS, Alabaster A, Bangiolo L, Haile A, Winikor J, Ortega C, van Schaijk BC, Sauerwein RW, Taylor-Salmon E, Barillas-Mury C. The human malaria parasite Pfs47 gene mediates evasion of the mosquito immune system. Science. 2013;340(6135):984-7.

  5. Molina-Cruz A, Canepa GE, Kamath N, Pavlovic NV, Mu J, Ramphul UN, Ramirez JL, Barillas-Mury C. Plasmodium evasion of mosquito immunity and global malaria transmission: The lock-and-key theory. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(49):15178-83.

This page was last updated on July 28th, 2017