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Clément Vinauger

Associate Professor
  • Research area(s): Molecular Genetics of Host-Seeking Behavior in Insects


Ph.D., University of Tours, Research Institute on Insect Biology, 2011

M.Sc., University of Tours, France, 2008

B.Sc., University of Orléans, France, 2006


  • October 2017 – present: Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Polytechnic
    Institute and State University, Blacksburg VA
  • January 2013 – September 2017: Research Associate, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  • September 2011 – August 2012: Temporary Lecturer, University of Tours, France.

Program Focus

Disease vector insects, and among them mosquitoes, are impacting millions of people every year. The global strategy for management of vector-borne diseases involves controlling vector populations, to a large extent through insecticide application. However, vector-borne diseases are now resurgent, largely because of rising insecticide resistance in vector populations and the drug resistance of pathogens. In this context, my research aims at closing the key knowledge gaps in our understanding of the mechanisms that allow blood-feeding insects to be such efficient disease vectors and, more specifically, to identify and characterize factors that modulate their host-seeking behavior.

A remarkable feature of blood-feeding insects is their rhythmic activity and biting patterns.  In a large number of disease vector species, different activities are modulated throughout the day and diverse vector-host interaction patterns have been described. Previous work has shown that biological clocks mediate host-vector interactions through diverse processes, such as regulating the sensitivity to host odors or modulating the ability to learn and memorize host-related information. In particular, we have shown that triatomine bugs only learn at times when it  is biologically relevant. However, despite clear epidemiological relevance, we know very little about the underlying mechanisms modulating vector-host interactions throughout the day. In addition, there are many examples in the literature of pathogen infection affecting the behavior of insect vectors. But again, despite obvious epidemiological consequences the mechanisms underlying the modulation of vectors’ behavior and activity rhythms by parasites remain to be unraveled. 

In this context, the focus of my laboratory is to investigate circadian and pathogen induced modulations of vector-host interactions, while leveraging interdisciplinary tools to go from the gene, to the neuron, to the insect behavior, and combining methods from Biochemistry, Neuroscience, Engineering and Chemical Ecology.

Dr. Vinauger PubMed site

Rusch, C., Roth, E., Vinauger, C., & Riffell J.A. (2017) Honeybees in a virtual reality environment learn unique combinations of colour and shape. Journal of Experimental Biology, jeb. 164731

​Lutz, E., Lahondere, C., Vinauger, C. & Riffell, J.A. (2017) Olfactory learning and chemical ecology of olfaction in disease vector mosquitoes: A life history perspective. Current Opinion in Insect Science 20, 75-83    

Vinauger, C., Lahondere, C., Cohuet, A., Lazzari, C.R., & Riffell, J.A. (2016) Learning and memory in disease vector insects. Trends in Parasitology 32(10): 761-771

Vinauger, C. & Lazzari, C.R. (2015) Circadian modulation of learning abilities in a disease vector insect, Rhodnius prolixus. Journal of Experimental Biology 218: 3110-3117 1/7

Vinauger, C., Lutz, E. & Riffell, J.A. (2014) Learning and memory in the disease vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Journal of Experimental Biology 217: 2321-2330

Vinauger, C., Lallement, H. & Lazzari, C.R. (2013) Learning and memory in Rhodnius prolixus: habituation and aversive operant conditioning of the proboscis extension response (PER). Journal of Experimental Biology 216: 892-900

Vinauger, C., Pereira, M.H. & Lazzari, C.R. (2012) Learned host preference in a Chagas disease vector, Rhodnius prolixus. Acta Tropica 122: 24-28

Vinauger, C., Buratti, L. & Lazzari, C.R. (2011) Learning the way to blood: first evidence of dual olfactory conditioning in a bloodsucking insect, Rhodnius prolixus. II. Aversive learning. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 3039-3045

Vinauger, C., Buratti, L. & Lazzari, C.R. (2011) Learning the way to blood: first evidence of dual olfactory conditioning in a bloodsucking insect, Rhodnius prolixus. I. Appetitive learning. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 3032-3038 (selected and evaluated by the Faculty of 1000:

Bodin, A., Vinauger, C. & Lazzari, C.R. (2009) Behavioural and physiological state dependency of host seeking in the blood-sucking insect Rhodnius prolixus. Journal of Experimental Biology 212: 2386-2393

Bodin, A., Vinauger, C. & Lazzari, C.R. (2009) State-dependency of host-seeking in Rhodnius prolixus: The post-ecdysis time. Journal of Insect Physiology 55: 574-579