Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Tag: mosquito

On the origin and evolution of the mosquito male-determining factor Nix

Background and workflow.

The mosquito family Culicidae is divided into two subfamilies named the Culicinae and Anophelinae. Nix, the dominant male-determining factor, has only been found in the culicines Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus, two important arboviral vectors that belong to the subgenus Stegomyia. Here we performed sex-specific whole-genome sequencing and RNAseq of divergent mosquito species and explored additional male-inclusive datasets to investigate the distribution of Nix. Except for the Culex genus, Nix homologs were found in all species surveyed from the Culicinae subfamily, including 12 additional species from three highly divergent tribes comprising 4 genera, suggesting Nix originated at least 133-165 MYA. Heterologous expression of one of three divergent Nix ORFs in Ae. aegypti resulted in partial masculinization of genetic females as evidenced by morphology and doublesex splicing. Phylogenetic analysis suggests Nix is related to femaleless (fle), a recently described intermediate sex-determining factor found exclusively in anopheline mosquitoes. Nix from all species has a conserved structure, including three RNA-recognition motifs (RRMs), as does fle. However, Nix has evolved at a much faster rate than fle. The RRM3 of both Nix and fle are distantly related to the single RRM of a widely distributed and conserved splicing factor transformer-2 (tra2). RRM3-based phylogenetic analysis suggests this domain in Nix and fle may have evolved from tra2 or a tra2-related gene in a common ancestor of mosquitoes. Our results provide insights into the evolution of sex-determination in mosquitoes and will inform broad applications of mosquito-control strategies based on manipulating sex ratios towards the non-biting males.

James K Biedler, Azadeh Aryan, Yumin Qi, Aihua Wang, Ellen O Martinson, Daniel A Hartman, Fan Yang, Atashi Sharma, Katherine S Morton, Mark Potters, Chujia Chen, Stephen L Dobson, Gregory D Ebel, Rebekah C Kading, Sally Paulson, Rui-De Xue, Michael R Strand, Zhijian Tu. Mol Biol Evol. 2023 Dec 21:msad276. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msad276. Online ahead of print.

Increased environmental microbial diversity reduces the disease risk of a mosquitocidal pathogen

Fig 6 Ch_R13E2-SpR systemically infects A. aegypti larvae.
Fig 6 Ch_R13E2-SpR systemically infects A. aegypti larvae.

The host-specific microbiotas of animals can both reduce and increase disease risks from pathogens. In contrast, how environmental microbial communities affect pathogens is largely unexplored. Aquatic habitats are of interest because water enables environmental microbes to readily interact with animal pathogens. Here, we focused on mosquitoes, which are important disease vectors as terrestrial adults but are strictly aquatic as larvae. We identified a pathogen of mosquito larvae from the field as a strain of Chromobacterium haemolyticum. Comparative genomic analyses and functional assays indicate this strain and other Chromobacterium are mosquitocidal but are also opportunistic pathogens of other animals. We also identify a critical role for diversity of the environmental microbiota in disease risk. Our study characterizes both the virulence mechanisms of a pathogen and the role of the environmental microbiota in disease risk to an aquatic animal of significant importance to human health.

Zhiwei Kang, Vincent G Martinson, Yin Wang, Kerri L Coon, Luca Valzania, Michael R Strand. mBio. 2023 Dec 6:e0272623. doi: 10.1128/mbio.02726-23.

Blood meals from ‘dead-end’ vertebrate hosts enhance transmission potential of malaria-infected mosquitoes

graphical abstract

Ingestion of an additional blood meal(s) by a hematophagic insect can accelerate development of several vector-borne parasites and pathogens. Most studies, however, offer blood from the same vertebrate host species as the original challenge (for e.g., human for primary and additional blood meals). Here, we show a second blood meal from bovine and canine hosts can also enhance sporozoite migration in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes infected with the human- and rodent-restricted Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei, respectively. The extrinsic incubation period (time to sporozoite appearance in salivary glands) showed more consistent reductions with blood from human and bovine donors than canine blood, although the latter’s effect may be confounded by the toxicity, albeit non-specific, associated with the anticoagulant used to collect whole blood from donors. The complex patterns of enhancement highlight the limitations of a laboratory system but are nonetheless reminiscent of parasite host-specificity and mosquito adaptations, and the genetic predisposition of An. stephensi for bovine blood. We suggest that in natural settings, a blood meal from any vertebrate host could accentuate the risk of human infections by P. falciparum: targeting vectors that also feed on animals, via endectocides for instance, may reduce the number of malaria-infected mosquitoes and thus directly lower residual transmission. Since endectocides also benefit animal health, our results underscore the utility of the One Health framework, which postulates that human health and well-being is interconnected with that of animals. We posit this framework will be further validated if our observations also apply to other vector-borne diseases which together are responsible for some of the highest rates of morbidity and mortality in socio-economically disadvantaged populations.

Ashutosh K Pathak, Justine C Shiau, Rafael C S Freitas, Dennis E Kyle. One Health. 2023 Jun 9:17:100582. doi: 10.1016/j.onehlt.2023.100582. eCollection 2023 Dec.

The mosquito Aedes aegypti requires a gut microbiota for normal fecundity, longevity and vector competence

Mosquitoes shift from detritus-feeding larvae to blood-feeding adults that can vector pathogens to humans and other vertebrates. The sugar and blood meals adults consume are rich in carbohydrates and protein but are deficient in other nutrients including B vitamins. Facultatively hematophagous insects like mosquitoes have been hypothesized to avoid B vitamin deficiencies by carryover of resources from the larval stage. However, prior experimental studies have also used adults with a gut microbiota that could provision B vitamins. Here, we used Aedes aegypti, which is the primary vector of dengue virus (DENV), to ask if carryover effects enable normal function in adults with no microbiota. We show that adults with no gut microbiota produce fewer eggs, live longer with lower metabolic rates, and exhibit reduced DENV vector competence but are rescued by provisioning B vitamins or recolonizing the gut with B vitamin autotrophs. We conclude carryover effects do not enable normal function.

Ruby E Harrison, Xiushuai Yang, Jai Hoon Eum, Vincent G Martinson, Xiaoyi Dou, Luca Valzania, Yin Wang, Bret M Boyd, Mark R Brown, Michael R Strand. Commun Biol. 2023 Nov 13;6(1):1154. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05545-z.

Insulin-like peptides and ovary ecdysteroidogenic hormone differentially stimulate physiological processes regulating egg formation in the mosquito Aedes aegypti

graphical abstract

Mosquitoes including Aedes aegypti are human disease vectors because females must blood feed to produce and lay eggs. Blood feeding triggers insulin-insulin growth factor signaling (IIS) which regulates several physiological processes required for egg development. A. aegypti encodes 8 insulin-like peptides (ILPs) and one insulin-like receptor (IR) plus ovary ecdysteroidogenic hormone (OEH) that also activates IIS through the OEH receptor (OEHR). In this study, we assessed the expression of A. aegypti ILPs and OEH during a gonadotropic cycle and produced each that were functionally characterized to further understand their roles in regulating egg formation. All A. aegypti ILPs and OEH were expressed during a gonadotropic cycle. Five ILPs (1, 3, 4, 7, 8) and OEH were specifically expressed in the head, while antibodies to ILP3 and OEH indicated each was released after blood feeding from ventricular axons that terminate on the anterior midgut. A subset of ILP family members and OEH stimulated nutrient storage in previtellogenic females before blood feeding, whereas most IIS-dependent processes after blood feeding were activated by one or more of the brain-specific ILPs and/or OEH. ILPs and OEH with different biological activities also exhibited differences in IIS as measured by phosphorylation of the IR, phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt kinase (AKT) and mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). Altogether, our results provide the first results that compare the functional activities of all ILP family members and OEH produced by an insect.

Kangkang Chen, Xiaoyi Dou, Jai Hoon Eum, Ruby A Harrison, Mark R Brown, Michael R Strand. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2023 Oct 30:104028. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2023.104028.

Treatment of dogs with Bravecto® (fluralaner) reduces mosquito survival and fecundity

Background: Mosquitoes serve as the vector of canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis), which represents a significant and persistent threat to canine health. A reduction in the longevity and/or reproductive success of mosquitoes that take a blood meal from fluralaner-treated dogs may consequently reduce the local transmission of heartworm and prevent new infections. A novel secondary effect of an oral formulation of the ectoparasiticide fluralaner (Bravecto®) against a laboratory strain of the mosquito Aedes aegypti, a potential major vector of canine heartworm, was investigated in this study.

Methods: Six dogs were administered a single dose of fluralaner orally in the form of Bravecto® Chews (at the labeled fluralaner dose of 25 mg/kg body weight), while six control dogs received no treatment. Mosquitoes were fed on blood that was collected from each dog prior to treatment and weekly for 15 weeks post-treatment to assess the continued effects of fluralaner as its serum level decreased. Mosquito fitness was assessed by three parameters: rate of successful blood-feeding, survival, and egg laying.

Results: Successful blood-feeding rate was similar between control and treatment groups. In the fluralaner treatment, mosquito survival was significantly reduced within the first 24 h after blood-feeding, for the first 12 weeks post-treatment of the dogs (efficacy range = 33.2-73.3%). Survival of mosquitoes up until a potentially heartworm-infective timepoint (14 days post-blood-feeding) was significantly reduced in the fluralaner-treated group at several timepoints (1, 2, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 weeks post-treatment; efficacy range = 49.4-91.4%), but was less consistently reduced at the other timepoints. Egg laying by mosquitoes was almost completely suppressed for the first 13 weeks following treatment of the dogs with fluralaner (treatment efficacy ≥ 99.8%).

Conclusions: Mosquitoes fed blood from fluralaner-treated dogs experienced a significant reduction in survival and fecundity. These findings support the potential for a reduction in heartworm transmission directly by lethal effects on the vector and indirectly through a reduction of the local vector population when mosquitoes are exposed to animals treated with fluralaner.

Christopher Charles Evans, Dorothy Normile, Sheryl Gamble, Frank Guerino, Michael T Dzimianski, Andrew Riddell Moorhead. Parasit Vectors. 2023 Apr 28;16(1):147. doi: 10.1186/s13071-023-05682-8.

Multiple endocrine factors regulate nutrient mobilization and storage in Aedes aegypti during a gonadotrophic cycle

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.

Xiaoyi Dou, Kangkang Chen, Mark R Brown, Michael R Strand. Insect Sci. 2022 Sep 2. doi: 10.1111/1744-7917.13110.

Ad libitum consumption of protein- or peptide-sucrose solutions stimulates egg formation by prolonging the vitellogenic phase of oogenesis in anautogenous mosquitoes

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.

Ruby E Harrison, Kangkang Chen, Lilith South, Ange Lorenzi, Mark R Brown, Michael R Strand. Parasit Vectors. 2022 Apr 12;15(1):127. doi: 10.1186/s13071-022-05252-4.

Anopheles gambiae strain (Ag55) cultured cells originated from Anopheles coluzzii and are phagocytic with hemocyte-like gene expression

Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles coluzzii are closely related species that are predominant vectors of malaria in Africa. Recently, A. gambiae form M was renamed A. coluzzii and we now conclude on the basis of a diagnostic PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism assay that Ag55 cells were derived from A. coluzzii. We established an Ag55 cell transcriptome, and KEGG pathway analysis showed that Ag55 cells are enriched in phagosome pathway transcripts. The Ag55 transcriptome has an abundance of specific transcripts characteristic of mosquito hemocytes. Functional E. coli bioparticle uptake experiments visualized by fluorescence microscopy and confocal microscopy and quantified by flow cytometry establish the phagocytic competence of Ag55 cells. Results from this investigation of Ag55 cell properties will guide researchers in the use and engineering of the Ag55 cell line to better enable investigations of Plasmodium, other microbes, and insecticidal toxins. Graphical abstract: Anopheles gambiae cultured Ag55 cells originated from Anopheles coluzzi, have a hemocyte-like transcriptome and are phagocytic. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Ruchir Mishra, Gang Hua, Ujwal R Bagal, Donald E Champagne, Michael J Adang. Insect Sci. 2022 Mar 31. doi: 10.1111/1744-7917.13036.

Insulin-like peptide 3 stimulates hemocytes to proliferate in anautogenous and facultatively autogenous mosquitoes

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.

Ellen O Martinson, Kangkang Chen, Luca Valzania, Mark R Brown, Michael R Strand. J Exp Biol. 2022 Mar 1;225(5):jeb243460. doi: 10.1242/jeb.243460.