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. Raddi G, Barletta ABF, Efremova M, Ramirez JL, Cantera R, Teichmann SA, Barillas-Mury C, Billker O. Mosquito cellular immunity at single-cell resolution. Science. 2020;369(6507):1128-1132.
  2. Molina-Cruz A, Canepa GE, Alves E Silva TL, Williams AE, Nagyal S, Yenkoidiok-Douti L, Nagata BM, Calvo E, Andersen J, Boulanger MJ, Barillas-Mury C. Plasmodium falciparum evades immunity of anopheline mosquitoes by interacting with a Pfs47 midgut receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020;117(5):2597-2605.
  3. Barletta ABF, Trisnadi N, Ramirez JL, Barillas-Mury C. Mosquito Midgut Prostaglandin Release Establishes Systemic Immune Priming. iScience. 2019;19:54-62.
  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.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Monday, October 4, 2021