Anautogenous mosquitoes must blood feed on a vertebrate host to produce eggs. Each gonadotrophic cycle is subdivided into a sugar-feeding previtellogenic phase that produces primary follicles and a blood meal-activated vitellogenic phase in which large numbers of eggs synchronously mature and are laid. Multiple endocrine factors including juvenile hormone (JH), insulin-like peptides (ILPs), ovary ecdysteroidogenic hormone (OEH) and 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) coordinate each gonadotrophic cycle. Egg formation also requires nutrients from feeding that are stored in the fat body. Regulation of egg formation is best understood in Aedes aegypti but the role different endocrine factors play in regulating nutrient mobilization and storage remains unclear. In this study, we report that adult female Ae. aegypti maintained triacylglycerol (TAG) stores during the previtellogenic phase of the first gonadotrophic cycle while glycogen stores declined. In contrast, TAG and glycogen stores were rapidly mobilized during the vitellogenic phase and then replenishment. Several genes encoding enzymes with functions in TAG and glycogen metabolism were differentially expressed in the fat body, which suggested regulation was mediated in part at the transcriptional level. Gain of function assays indicated that stored nutrients were primarily mobilized by adipokinetic hormone (AKH) while juvenoids and OEH regulated replenishment. ILP3 further showed evidence of negatively regulating certain lipolytic enzymes. Loss of function assays further indicated AKH depends on the AKH receptor (AKHR) for function. Altogether, our results indicate that the opposing activities of different hormones regulate nutrient stores during a gonadotrophic cycle in Ae. aegypti. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Background: Anautogenous mosquitoes commonly consume nectars and other solutions containing sugar but are thought to only produce eggs in discrete gonadotrophic cycles after blood-feeding on a vertebrate host. However, some anautogenous species are known to produce eggs if amino acids in the form of protein are added to a sugar solution. Unclear is how different sources of amino acids in sugar solutions affect the processes that regulate egg formation and whether responses vary among species. In this study, we addressed these questions by focusing on Aedes aegypti and conducting some comparative assays with Aedes albopictus, Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus.
Methods: Adult female mosquitoes were fed sugar solutions containing amino acids, peptides or protein. Markers for activation of a gonadotrophic cycle including yolk deposition into oocytes, oviposition, ovary ecdysteroidogenesis, expression of juvenile hormone and 20-hydroxyecdysone-responsive genes, and adult blood-feeding behavior were then measured.
Results: The five anautogenous species we studied produced eggs when fed two proteins (bovine serum albumin, hemoglobin) or a mixture of peptides (tryptone) in 10% sucrose but deposited only small amounts of yolk into oocytes when fed amino acids in 10% sucrose. Focusing on Ae. aegypti, cultures were maintained for multiple generations by feeding adult females protein- or tryptone-sugar meals. Ad libitum access to protein- or tryptone-sugar solutions protracted production of ecdysteroids by the ovaries, vitellogenin by the fat body and protease activity by the midgut albeit at levels that were lower than in blood-fed females. Females also exhibited semi-continual oogenesis and repressed host-seeking behavior.
Conclusions: Several anautogenous mosquitoes produce eggs when provided ad libitum access to protein- or peptide-sugar meals, but several aspects of oogenesis also differ from females that blood-feed.
Most mosquito species are anautogenous, which means they must blood feed on a vertebrate host to produce eggs, while a few are autogenous and can produce eggs without blood feeding. Egg formation is best understood in the anautogenous mosquito Aedes aegypti, where insulin-like peptides (ILPs), ovary ecdysteroidogenic hormone (OEH) and 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) interact to regulate gonadotrophic cycles. Circulating hemocytes also approximately double in abundance in conjunction with a gonadotrophic cycle, but the factors responsible for stimulating this increase remain unclear. Focusing on Ae. aegypti, we determined that hemocyte abundance similarly increased in intact blood-fed females and decapitated blood-fed females that were injected with ILP3, whereas OEH, 20E or heat-killed bacteria had no stimulatory activity. ILP3 upregulated insulin-insulin growth factor signaling in hemocytes, but few genes – including almost no transcripts for immune factors – were differentially expressed. ILP3 also stimulated circulating hemocytes to increase in two other anautogenous (Anopheles gambiae and Culex quinquefasciatus) and two facultatively autogenous mosquitoes (Aedes atropalpus and Culex pipiens molestus), but had no stimulatory activity in the obligately autogenous mosquito Toxorhynchites amboinensis. Altogether, our results identify ILPs as the primary regulators of hemocyte proliferation in association with egg formation, but also suggest this response has been lost in the evolution of obligate autogeny.
Mosquito reproduction is regulated by a suite of hormones, many acting through membrane-bound receptor proteins. The Aedes aegypti G protein-coupled receptors AAEL024199 (AeCNMaR-1a) and AAEL018316 (AeCNMaR-1b) were identified as orthologs of the Drosophila melanogaster CNMa receptor (DmCNMaR). The receptor was duplicated early in the evolution of insects, and subsequently in Culicidae, into what we refer to as CNMaR-1a and CNMaR-1b. AeCNMaR-1a is only detected in male mosquito antennae while AeCNMaR-1b is expressed at high levels in mosquito ovaries. Using a heterologous cell assay, we determined that AeCNMa activates AeCNMaR-1a with a ~10-fold lower concentration than it does AeCNMaR-1b, though both receptors displayed half maximal effective concentrations of AeCNMa in the low nanomolar range. Finally, we show that injections of AeCNMa into blood-fed mated female Ae. aegypti resulted in fewer eggs laid.
Most mosquito species are anautogenous, which means they must blood feed on a vertebrate host to produce eggs, while a few are autogenous and can produce eggs without blood feeding. Egg formation is best understood in the anautogenous mosquito Aedes aegypti where insulin-like peptides (ILPs), ovary ecdysteroidogenic hormone (OEH) and 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) interact to regulate gonadotrophic cycles. Circulating hemocytes also approximately double in abundance in conjunction with a gonadotrophic cycle but the factors responsible for stimulating this increase remain unclear. Focusing on Ae. aegypti, we determined that hemocyte abundance similarly increased in intact blood-fed females and decapitated blood-fed females that were injected with ILP3, whereas OEH, 20E, or heat-killed bacteria had no stimulatory activity. ILP3 upregulated insulin-insulin growth factor signaling in hemocytes but few genes, including almost no transcripts for immune factors, were differentially expressed. ILP3 also stimulated circulating hemocytes to increase in two other anautogenous (Anopheles gambiae and Culex quinquefasciatus) and two facultatively autogenous mosquitoes (Aedes atropalpus and Culex pipiens molestus), but had no stimulatory activity in the obligately autogenous mosquito Toxorhynchites amboinensis. Altogether, our results identify ILPs as the primary regulators of hemocyte proliferation in association with egg formation, but also suggest this response has been lost in the evolution of obligate autogeny.
We previously determined that several diets used to rear Aedes aegypti and other mosquito species support the development of larvae with a gut microbiota but do not support the development of axenic larvae. In contrast, axenic larvae have been shown to develop when fed other diets. To understand the mechanisms underlying this dichotomy, we developed a defined diet that could be manipulated in concert with microbiota composition and environmental conditions. Initial studies showed that axenic larvae could not grow under standard rearing conditions (27 °C, 16-h light: 8-h dark photoperiod) when fed a defined diet but could develop when maintained in darkness. Downstream assays identified riboflavin decay to lumichrome as the key factor that prevented axenic larvae from growing under standard conditions, while gut community members like Escherichia coli rescued development by being able to synthesize riboflavin. Earlier results showed that conventional and gnotobiotic but not axenic larvae exhibit midgut hypoxia under standard rearing conditions, which correlated with activation of several pathways with essential growth functions. In this study, axenic larvae in darkness also exhibited midgut hypoxia and activation of growth signaling but rapidly shifted to midgut normoxia and arrested growth in light, which indicated that gut hypoxia was not due to aerobic respiration by the gut microbiota but did depend on riboflavin that only resident microbes could provide under standard conditions. Overall, our results identify riboflavin provisioning as an essential function for the gut microbiota under most conditions A. aegypti larvae experience in the laboratory and field.
Yin Wang, Jai Hoon Eum, Ruby E. Harrison, Luca Valzania, Xiushuai Yang, Jena A. Johnson, Derek T. Huck, Mark R. Brown, Michael R. Strand Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2021, 118 (15) e2101080118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101080118
Background: Most female mosquitoes are anautogenous and must blood feed on a vertebrate host to produce eggs. Prior studies show that the number of eggs females lay per clutch correlates with the volume of blood ingested and that protein is the most important macronutrient for egg formation. In contrast, how whole blood, blood fractions and specific blood proteins from different vertebrates affect egg formation is less clear. Since egg formation is best understood in Aedes aegypti, we examined how blood and blood components from different vertebrates affect this species and two others: the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae and arbovirus vector Culex quinquefasciatus.
Methods: Adult female mosquitoes were fed blood, blood fractions and purified major blood proteins from different vertebrate hosts. Markers of reproductive response including ovary ecdysteroidogenesis, yolk deposition into oocytes and number of mature eggs produced were measured.
Results: Ae. aegypti, An. gambiae and C. quinquefasciatus responded differently to meals of whole blood, plasma or blood cells from human, rat, chicken and turkey hosts. We observed more similarities between the anthropophiles Ae. aegypti and An. gambiae than the ornithophile C. quinquefasciatus. Focusing on Ae. aegypti, the major plasma-derived proteins (serum albumin, fibrinogen and globulins) differentially stimulated egg formation as a function of vertebrate host source. The major blood cell protein, hemoglobin, stimulated yolk deposition when from pigs but not humans, cows or sheep. Serum albumins from different vertebrates also variably affected egg formation. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) stimulated ovary ecdysteroidogenesis, but more weakly induced digestive enzyme activities than whole blood. In contrast, BSA-derived peptides and free amino acids had no stimulatory effects on ecdysteroidogenesis or yolk deposition into oocytes.
Conclusions: Whole blood, blood fractions and specific blood proteins supported egg formation in three species of anautogenous mosquitoes but specific responses varied with the vertebrate source of the blood components tested.
Harrison, R.E., Brown, M.R. & Strand, M.R. Whole blood and blood components from vertebrates differentially affect egg formation in three species of anautogenous mosquitoes. Parasites Vectors 14, 119 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-021-04594-9
Most species of mosquitoes are detritivores that feed on decaying plant and animal materials in their aquatic environment. Studies of several detritivorous mosquito species indicate that they host relatively low diversity communities of microbes that are acquired from the environment while feeding. Our recent results also indicate that detritivorous species normally require a living gut microbiota to grow beyond the first instar. Less well known is that some mosquitoes, including those belonging to the genus Toxorhynchites, are predators that feed on other species of mosquitoes and nektonic prey. In this study, we asked whether predaceous Toxorhynchites amboinensis larvae still require living microbes in their gut in order to develop. Using the detritivorous mosquito Aedes aegypti as prey, we found that T. amboinensis larvae harbour bacterial communities that are highly similar to that of their prey. Functional assays showed that T. amboinensis first instars provided axenic (i.e. bacteria-free) prey failed to develop, while two bacterial species present in gnotobiotic (i.e. colonized by one or more known bacterial species) prey successfully colonized the T. amboinensis gut and rescued development. Axenic T. amboinensis larvae also displayed defects in growth consistent with previously identified roles for microbe-mediated gut hypoxia in nutrient acquisition and assimilation in A. aegypti. Collectively, these results support a conserved role for gut microbes in regulating the development of mosquitoes with different feeding strategies.
NIH T32 trainee Ruby Harrison is a co-advised by Drs. Michael Strand and Mark Brown in the UGA Department of Entomology. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012 and lived in Madison an additional two years working with mosquitoes as a research assistant. Before coming to UGA to begin my doctoral studies, she spent a year in Gabon, Africa, working as a tropical ecology field technician.
Ruby’s research focus
Ruby studies mosquito-microbiome interactions. Currently, she is investigating the influence of the gut microbiome on mosquito reproductive processes. She also plans to begin exploring the role of the mosquito microbiome in deterring pathogen infection in the very near future.
“I chose this research focus because I was inspired by the research of a former graduate student of Dr. Strand’s, Dr. Kerri Coon. Kerri pioneered fascinating work on the influence of the microbiota on development in mosquitoes in the immature (larval) stage,” said Ruby. “I saw an opportunity to extend her work, to observe if the same bacterial signal essential to larval development is recapitulated in any way in the adult stage.”
More broadly, she sees insect-microbe interactions as a promising field which may offer new solutions for mosquito population control and reduction of pathogen transmission.
NIH T32 Fellowship helps trainees achieve their goals
Ultimately, Ruby hopes to build a career as a vector biologist. For the capstone experience provided by the NIH T32 Training Grant, she is interested in returning to francophone West or Central Africa to work with mosquitoes in the field.
“I am truly grateful to receive the T32 pre-doctoral training fellowship, which presents me the opportunity to interact more closely with the CTEGD, opens doors for possible collaboration, and will help me to pursue my research goals,” said Ruby.