Joseph E. O’Tousa Professor

Photoreceptors and Visual System Function
 Joseph E. O’Tousa

Research Interests:

The O’Tousa research group studies how visual systems work. Our research analyzes of the cellular triggers of retinal degeneration and mechanisms by protein-kinase controlled signaling pathways, known to be active in neuroprotection outside the retina, impact photoreceptor biology. The effort seeks to understand the cellular responses of photoreceptors so that interventions can be developed to minimize the effects of retinal diseases on vision loss. Our work has largely used the genetic and molecular approaches available in the Drosophila model system.

We also have characterized the mosquito visual systems, a related insect that shares many features of the compound eye. This work has provided insights into how organisms enhance vision to allow activity at night and other low light conditions. The effort has also allowed my research group to contribute to Notre Dame’s focus on global health initiatives. We are now applying genetic and genome editing tools developed in Drosophila research for the control of mosquito populations.



  • Professor 1998-Present
  • Associate Professor 1992-1998
  • Assistant Professor 1985-1992
  • Postdoctoral, Research Scientist, Purdue Univ. 1980-1985
  • Ph.D., Genetics, University of Washington 1980
  • B.S., Biological Sciences, Univ. of California, Irvine 1976


Recent Papers:

  • Champion, M.M., Sheppard, A.D., Rund, S.C., Freed, S.A., O’Tousa, J.E., and Duffield, G.E. (2016) Qualitative and Quantitative Proteomics Methods for the Analysis of the Anopheles gambiae Mosquito Proteome . In: Short Views on Insect Genomics and Proteomics (ed: C. Raman, M. Goldsmith, T. Agunbiade) Springer, p. 37-62.
  • Metoxen, A.J., Leming, M.T., Hu, X., Whaley, M.A., and O'Tousa, J.E. (2016) Light-driven processes control both rhodopsin maturation and recycling in mosquito photoreceptors. J. Neurosci. 36, 11051-11058. [This report was recommended as being of special significance in its field by the F1000 Faculty.]
  • Rocha, M., Kimler, K.J., Leming, M.T., Hu, X., Whaley, M.A., and O’Tousa, J.E., (2015) Expression and light-triggered movement of rhodopsins in the larval visual system of mosquitoes. J. Exp. Biol. [epub ahead of print: doi:10.1242/jeb.111526].
  • Mecklenburg, K.L., Freed, S.A., Raval, M., Quintero, OA, Yengo, C.M., and O'Tousa, J.E. (2015) Invertebrate and vertebrate class III myosins interact with MORN repeat-containing adaptor proteins, PLoS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122502.
  • Hu, X, Leming MT#, Whaley MA, O'Tousa JE. (2014) Rhodopsin coexpression in UV photoreceptors of Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. J. Exp. Biol. 217, 1003-1008.
  • Moon, Y. M., Metoxen, A. J., Leming, M. T., Whaley, M. A., and O'Tousa, J. E. (2014) Rhodopsin management during the light-dark cycle of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. J Insect Physiol. 70, 88-93.
  • Mysore, K., Flannery, E., Leming, M.T., Tomchaney, M., Shi, L., Sun, L., O'Tousa, J. E., Severson, D.W., and Duman-Scheel, M. (2014) Role of semaphorin-1a in the developing visual system of the disease vector mosquito Aedes aegypti. Dev. Dynamics 243, 1457-1469.
  • Leming, M.T., Rund, S.S., Behura, S.K., Duffield, G.E, O’Tousa, J.E. (2014) A database of circadian and diel rhythmic gene expression in the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. BMC Genomics 15, 1128.