Wei Xu  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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    Dr Wei Xu

    Senior Lecturer in Entomology, Agricultural Sciences

    About me

    I am an insect biologist.  My research focuses are on insect chemical ecology, insect molecular biology, biochemistry and functional genomics to improve our understanding of insect behaviors, insect-host interaction and evolution.

    I received my PhD in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) in June, 2010 under the supervision of Dr. Walter Leal, a leading authority in insect chemical ecology. My research project was “Olfactory (Smell) proteins in moths and mosquitoes”. I came to Australia with an OCE (Office of the Chief Executive) Postdoctoral Fellowship and joined CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences (CES). My study focus is the molecular mechanisms of insect chemosensory systems and their functions in insect-host interaction and co-evolution. I joined Murdoch University in January 2015 as a lecturer in Entomology in the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences.

    Teaching area

    Entomology, Insect Chemical Ecology, Functional Genomics and Insect Molecular Biology.

    1. BIO257, Australia Biodiversity (Invertebrate Module)
    2. ANS208 Crop Protection and Plant Biosecurity (Insect and Insect Management Modules)
    3. Visiting Plant Protection Student Study Program (Coordinator)


    Research areas

    Insects, one of the most important groups of organisms, live in a world of chemistry. They rely upon smell (the olfactory system) to detect mates, food and oviposition sites. They rely upon taste (the gustatory system) to evaluate which foods to feed on and which foods to avoid. My research is focused on insect olfactory and taste systems at the molecular level. I will also dissect how these insects have fine-tuned their chemical sensory systems to sense their environment and regulate their behaviours. Understanding the molecular basis of these mechanisms will provide a vital tool for assessing crucial natural interactions of hosts and insects, as well as allowing us to develop new strategies for insect control through disruption of chemosensory mechanisms.

    Current projects

    1. DE160100382–Odorant recognition in insect olfactory system to control insect behaviour (2016-2020)

    Protecting crops against damage from insect pests and transmitted diseases is an ongoing challenge. Insect reliance on their senses to detect food has considerable potential for the development of odour-based behaviour control methods. This project will develop new insights into the underlying insect smell systems and identify potential attractant compounds in support of the development of environmentally safer insect pest control strategies to strengthen Australian agriculture and biosecurity.

    Awards and grants

    • 2016-2020 ARC DECRA DE160100382–Odorant recognition in insect olfactory system to control insect behaviour ($372,000)
    • 2015-2018 PBCRC 3149 Molecular basis of response to (sub)lethal stresses ($692,978)
    • 2017-2019 ATMAC Determination of host status of Australian finger limes to enable market access ($57,687)
    • 2018, Murdoch small grant-Molecular Diagnosis Identification of Natural Enemies for Tomato Potato Psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) ($7,250)
    • 2016 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) Australia Runner-up Prize (only one champion and two runner-ups every year).
    • 2015 FASIC Program Early Career Fellowships ($7,000)
    • 2011-2012 CSIRO Acorn Grant ($25,000)
    • 2010-2013 CSIRO OCE (Office of the Chief Executive) postdoctoral fellowship.
    • 28th International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) annual conference travel award, 2012.
    • 6th Asia-Pacific association of chemical ecology conference organization award, 2011.
    • 8th Chinese national chemical ecology conference paper competition, 1st Place, 2010.
    • 56th ESA annual meeting president’s award, 2008.

    Events and speaking engagements

    1. Xu W. Sensory neuron membrane proteins (SNMPs) in cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. 12th Chinese Chemical Ecology Annual Conference. Fuzhou, China. June 22-25, 2018
    2. Xu W. Molecular basis of response to post-harvest treatment stresses. 2018 PBCRC Scientific Exchange Program, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, May 28-31, 2018.
    3. Xu W. Molecular basis of Fruit fly response to (sub)lethal stresses. Science Protecting Plant Health in Brisbane, Queensland, Sep 25-28, 2017.
    4. Xu W. Molecular basis of Fruit fly response to (sub)lethal stresses. The 1st Australia-China Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation (ACCSTI2017) in Perth, WA, Feb. 2-6, 2017.
    5. Xu W. Molecular basis of Fruit fly response to (sub)lethal stresses. 2016 PBCRC Scientific Exchange Program, Creswick, Victoria, Australia, Oct. 25-39, 2016.
    6. Xu W. Expansion of a taste receptor family in a polyphagous insect herbivore. 2016 International Congress of Entomology (ICE) in Orlando, Florida, USA. Sep. 25-Oct. 1, 2016.
    7. Xu W. Molecular basis of response to postharvest treatment stresses. 2016 TAAO Symposium, Putrajay, Malaysia, Aug. 15-18, 2016.
    8. Xu W. Expansion of a taste receptor family in a polyphagous insect herbivore. The 16th Australasian Association for ChemoSensory Science (AACSS) conference, Canberra, Australia. Dec. 2-4, 2015.
    9. Xu W. Chemosensory genes from cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. International Chemical Ecology Conference (ICEC), Melbourne, Australia. Aug. 19-23, 2013.
    10. Xu W. Chemosensory genes from cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. The 14th AACSS conference, Melbourne, Australia. Aug. 16-18, 2013.
    11. Xu W., Zhang H. and Anderson A. A sugar gustatory receptor identified from the foregut of cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigeraThe 28th International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) annual conference. Vilnius, Lithuania, Jul. 22-26, 2012.
    12. Xu W., Zhang H. and Anderson A. A sugar gustatory receptor identified from the foregut of cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. XVI International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste (ISOT) conference. Stockholm, Sweden. Jun. 23-27, 2012.
    13. Xu W., Papanicolaou A. and Anderson A. Olfactory receptors from cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. The 13th AACSS conference. Matakana, New Zealand. Dec. 7-9, 2011.
    14. Xu W. and Leal W. Navel Orangeworm Moth (Amyleois transitella) Pheromone-Binding Protein 1 (AtraPBP1). The 6th Asia-Pacific Association of Chemical Ecologists (APACE) conference. Beijing, China. Oct. 11-15, 2011.
    15. Xu W. and Leal W. Odorant Binding Proteins from Malaria Mosquito Anopheles funestus. The 8th Chinese National Chemical Ecology conference, Shanghai, China. Oct. 9-12, 2010.
    16. Xu W. and Leal W. Study on Aedes Aegypti odorant binding protein-1. The 92th ESA Pacific Branch annual meeting, Boise, ID, USA. Apr. 10-13, 2010.
    17. Xu W. and Leal W. The localization of Culex quinquefasciatus odorant binding protein-1 (CquiOBP1). The 56th ESA annual meeting, Reno, NV, USA. Nov. 16-19, 2008.
    18. Xu W. and Leal W. Study on odorant binding proteins from malaria mosquito Anopheles funestus. The 91th ESA Pacific Branch annual meeting, Napa, CA, USA. Apr. 1-3, 2008.
    19. Xu W. and Leal W. Molecular Switch for pheromone release from Bombyx mori pheromone-binding protein. The 90th ESA Pacific Branch annual meeting, Portland, OR, USA. Mar. 25-28, 2007.
    20. Xu W. and Leal W. Molecular switch at the C-terminus of BmorPBP. The 54th ESA annual meeting, Indianapolis, IN, USA. Dec. 10-13, 2006.
    21. Xu W. and Leal W. Proteins make sense in Culex quinquefasciatus. The 53th ESA annual meeting, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA. Dec. 15-18, 2005

    Professional and community service

    • Convener for “Functional Genomics and Transgenesis” section of the International Congress of Entomology (ICE) 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA
    • Australia Association of Chemosensory Science (AACSS) ordinary member (2015 – Now).
    • Scientist in School program in Harrison School, Canberra, ACT, 2012-2013.
    • Symposium “Chemical ecology meets evolutionary and molecular biology” co-organizer, 28th ISCE annual conference. Vilnius, Lithuania, July 22-26, 2012.
    • Symposium “Olfaction and receptors” co-organizer, 6th APACE conference. Beijing, China. Oct. 13th, 2011.
    • 2008 Pacific Branch ESA Annual Conference Moderator

    Doctoral and masters supervisions

    You should list the students you are supervising or have supervised and the topic areas covered here.

    Ph.D. Students

    Basman Al-Jalely (2015-2020) (Primary supervisor), Chemical communications between insect pests and their natural enemies

    Farhan Al-Behadili  (2016-2019) (Primary supervisor), Cold treatment and low-oxygen treatment to Mediterranean fruit fly

    Annirudha Agnihotri (2017- 2020) (Primary supervisor), Odorant recognition in insect olfactory system to control insect behaviour

    Andrew Phillips (2019-2022) (Primary supervisor), Chemical cues used by aphidophagous arthropods to locate aphids in canola fields

    Naiyong Liu (2012-2014) (Co-supervisor), currently a faculty member in Southwest Forestry University, China


    Postdoctoral Fellow

    Dr Kay Anantanawat (2015-2017), currently Facility Manager, at the The ithree Institute,  University of Technology Sydney

    Dr Antonios Augustinos (2016-2017), currently a research entomologist in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria.

     Technical Officer

    Vineeta Bilgi (2016-2017), currently a research entomologist in Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DIPIRD).


    Honours Student

    Andrew Phillips (2016-2017 )


    Al-Behadili F, Bilgi V, Li J, Wang P, Taniguchi M, Agarwal M, Ren Y, Xu W (2019)Cold Response of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly (Ceratitis capitata) on a Lab Diet.  Insects 10 (2), 48.

    Liu NY, Xu W, et al. (2018) Genome-wide analysis of ionotropic receptor gene repertoire in Lepidoptera with an emphasis on its functions of Helicoverpa armigera. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. DOI: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2018.05.005

    Kahn S, Liao Y, Du X, Xu W, et al. (2018) Exosomal MicroRNAs in Milk from Mothers Delivering Preterm Infants Survive in Vitro Digestion and Are Taken Up by Human Intestinal Cells. Mol Nutr Food Res 62(11):e1701050. DOI:10.1002/mnfr.201701050

    Pearce S., Clarke D., East P., [..] Xu W. et al.  Genomic innovations, transcriptional plasticity and gene loss underlying the evolution and divergence of two highly polyphagous and invasive Helicoverpa pest species. BMC Biology, 2017. DOI:10.1186/s12915-017-0402-6

    Xu W & Liao Y (2017) Identification and characterization of aldehyde oxidases (AOXs) in the cotton bollworm. Die Naturwissenschaften 104(11-12):94. DOI:10.1007/s00114-017-1515-z

    Stevenson BJ… Xu W. (2017) Walking Responses of Tribolium castaneum (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) to Its Aggregation Pheromone and Odors of Wheat Infestations. J Econ Entomol 110(3):1351-1358. DOI:10.1093/jee/tox051

    Gouin A., Bretaudeau A., [..] Xu W. et al. Two genomes of highly polyphagous lepidopteran pests (Spodoptera frugiperda, Noctuidae) with different host-plant ranges. Scientific Reports, 2017. DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-10461-4

    Liao YL, Weber D, Xu W, et al. (2017) Absolute Quantification of Human Milk Caseins and the Whey/Casein Ratio during the First Year of Lactation. J Proteome Res 16(11):4113-4121. DOI:10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00486

    Xu W, Liu NY, Liao YL, & Anderson A (2017) Molecular characterization of sugar taste receptors in the cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. Genome 60(12):1037-1044. DOI:10.1139/gen-2017-0086

    Xu W, Papanicolaou A, Zhang HJ, & Anderson A (2016) Expansion of a bitter taste receptor family in a polyphagous insect herbivore. Sci Rep 6. DOI:10.1038/srep23666

    Xu W, Papanicolaou A, Liu NY, Dong SL, & Anderson A (2015) Chemosensory receptor genes in the Oriental tobacco budworm Helicoverpa assulta. Insect Mol Biol 24(2):253-263.  DOI:10.1111/imb.12153

    Xu W & Anderson A (2015) Carbon dioxide receptor genes in cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. Sci Nat-Heidelberg 102(3-4). DOI:10.1007/s00114-015-1260-0

    Liu NY, Yang K, Xu W, et al. (2015) Two general-odorant binding proteins in Spodoptera litura are differentially tuned to sex pheromones and plant odorants. Comp Biochem Phys A 180:23-31. DOI:10.1016/j.cbpa.2014.11.005

    Liu NY, Yang F, He P, Yang K, Niu X, Xu W, et al. (2015) Two subclasses of odorant-binding proteins in Spodoptera exigua display structural conservation and functional divergence. Insect Mol Biol 24(2):167-182. Insect Mol Biol, 2014; 24 (2): 167-182. DOI:10.1111/imb.12143

    Liu NY, Xu W, Papanicolaou A, Dong SL, & Anderson A (2014) Identification and characterization of three chemosensory receptor families in the cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. BMC Genomics 15. DOI:10.1186/1471-2164-15-597

    Xu W, Zhang HJ, & Anderson A (2012) A Sugar Gustatory Receptor Identified from the Foregut of Cotton Bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. J Chem Ecol 38(12):1513-1520. DOI:10.1007/s10886-012-0221-8

    Xu W, Xu XZ, Leal WS, & Ames JB (2011) Extrusion of the C-terminal helix in navel orangeworm moth pheromone-binding protein (AtraPBP1) controls pheromone binding. Biochem Bioph Res Co 404(1):335-338. DOI:10.1016/j.bbrc.2010.11.119

    Xu XZ, Xu W, et al. (2010) NMR Structure of Navel Orangeworm Moth Pheromone-Binding Protein (AtraPBP1): Implications for pH-Sensitive Pheromone Detection. Biochemistry 49(7):1469-1476. DOI:10.1021/bi9020132

    Xu W, Cornel AJ, & Leal WS (2010) Odorant-Binding Proteins of the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles funestus sensu stricto. Plos One 5(10). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0015403

    Mao Y, Xu XZ, Xu W, et al. (2010) Crystal and solution structures of an odorant-binding protein from the southern house mosquito complexed with an oviposition pheromone. P Natl Acad Sci USA 107(44):19102-19107. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1012274107

    Xu XZ, Xu W, et al. (2009) H-1, N-15, and C-13 chemical shift assignments of the mosquito odorant binding protein-1 (CquiOBP1) bound to the mosquito oviposition pheromone. Biomol NMR Assign 3(2):195-197. DOI:10.1007/s12104-009-9173-5

    Leite NR, Krogh R, Xu W, et al. (2009) Structure of an Odorant-Binding Protein from the Mosquito Aedes aegypti Suggests a Binding Pocket Covered by a pH-Sensitive “Lid”. Plos One 4(11). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0008006

    Leal WS, Ishida Y, Pelletier J, Xu W, et al. (2009) Olfactory Proteins Mediating Chemical Communication in the Navel Orangeworm Moth, Amyelois transitella. Plos One 4(9). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0007235

    Xu W & Leal WS (2008) Molecular switches for pheromone release from a moth pheromone-binding protein. Biochem Bioph Res Co 372(4):559-564. DOI:10.1016/j.bbrc.2008.05.087

    Leal WS, Barbosa R, Xu W, et al. (2008) Reverse and Conventional Chemical Ecology Approaches for the Development of Oviposition Attractants for Culex Mosquitoes. Plos One 3(8). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0003045

    Grater F, Xu W, Leal W, & Grubmuller H (2006) Pheromone discrimination by the pheromone-binding protein of Bombyx mori. Structure 14(10):1577-1586.

    Chen J, Sun F, Shi Y, Xu W, et al. (2005) Efficient expression of vip184 Delta P gene under the control of promoters plus Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequences of cry genes from Bacillus thuringiensis. J Appl Microbiol 99(2):426-434.

    Shi Y, Xu W, et al. (2004) Expression of vip1/vip2 genes in Escherichia coli and Bacillus thuringiensis and the analysis of their signal peptides. J. Appl. Microbiol., 2004, 97:757-765.

    Yu JX, Xu W, et al. (2002) Cloning and expression of cyt2Ba7 gene from a soil-isolated Bacillus thuringiensis. Curr Microbiol 45(5):309-314.