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Concept: Anopheles gambiae


Malaria transmission is dependent on the propensity of Anopheles mosquitoes to bite humans (anthropophily) instead of other dead end hosts. Recent increases in the usage of Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLINs) in Africa have been associated with reductions in highly anthropophilic and endophilic vectors such as Anopheles gambiae s.s., leaving species with a broader host range, such as Anopheles arabiensis, as the most prominent remaining source of transmission in many settings. An. arabiensis appears to be more of a generalist in terms of its host choice and resting behavior, which may be due to phenotypic plasticity and/or segregating allelic variation. To investigate the genetic basis of host choice and resting behavior in An. arabiensis we sequenced the genomes of 23 human-fed and 25 cattle-fed mosquitoes collected both in-doors and out-doors in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. We identified a total of 4,820,851 SNPs, which were used to conduct the first genome-wide estimates of “SNP heritability” for host choice and resting behavior in this species. A genetic component was detected for host choice (human vs cow fed; permuted P = 0.002), but there was no evidence of a genetic component for resting behavior (indoors versus outside; permuted P = 0.465). A principal component analysis (PCA) segregated individuals based on genomic variation into three groups which were characterized by differences at the 2Rb and/or 3Ra paracentromeric chromosome inversions. There was a non-random distribution of cattle-fed mosquitoes between the PCA clusters, suggesting that alleles linked to the 2Rb and/or 3Ra inversions may influence host choice. Using a novel inversion genotyping assay, we detected a significant enrichment of the standard arrangement (non-inverted) of 3Ra among cattle-fed mosquitoes (N = 129) versus all non-cattle-fed individuals (N = 234; χ2, p = 0.007). Thus, tracking the frequency of the 3Ra in An. arabiensis populations may be of use to infer selection on host choice behavior within these vector populations; possibly in response to vector control. Controlled host-choice assays are needed to discern whether the observed genetic component has a direct relationship with innate host preference. A better understanding of the genetic basis for host feeding behavior in An. arabiensis may also open avenues for novel vector control strategies based on driving genes for zoophily into wild mosquito populations.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Malaria, Anopheles, Mosquito, Principal component analysis, Mosquito control, Anopheles gambiae


Malaria causes more than 300 million clinical cases and 665,000 deaths each year, and the majority of the mortality and morbidity occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the lack of effective vaccines and wide-spread resistance to antimalarial drugs, mosquito control is the primary method of malaria prevention and control. Currently, malaria vector control relies on the use of insecticides, primarily pyrethroids. The extensive use of insecticides has imposed strong selection pressures for resistance in the mosquito populations. Consequently, resistance to pyrethroids in Anopheles gambiae, the main malaria vector in sub-Saharan Africa, has become a major obstacle for malaria control. A key element of resistance management is the identification of resistance mechanisms and subsequent development of reliable resistance monitoring tools. Field-derived An. gambiae from Western Kenya were phenotyped as deltamethrin-resistant or -susceptible by the standard WHO tube test, and their expression profile compared by RNA-seq. Based on the current annotation of the An. gambiae genome, a total of 1,093 transcripts were detected as significantly differentially accumulated between deltamethrin-resistant and -susceptible mosquitoes. These transcripts are distributed over the entire genome, with a large number mapping in QTLs previously linked to pyrethorid resistance, and correspond to heat-shock proteins, metabolic and transport functions, signal transduction activities, cytoskeleton and others. The detected differences in transcript accumulation levels between resistant and susceptible mosquitoes reflect transcripts directly or indirectly correlated with pyrethroid resistance. RNA-seq data also were used to perform a de-novo Cufflinks assembly of the An. gambiae genome.

Concepts: Malaria, Africa, Anopheles, Mosquito, Dengue fever, Malaria prophylaxis, Mosquito control, Anopheles gambiae


BACKGROUND: In many parts of Africa as in Benin, the main strategies of vector control are based on the scaling-up of Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS). The need to understand the biological implications of IRS in large scale and full coverage of LLITNs is paramount. It is in this context that the present study was conducted. It aims to evaluate the effect of a large scale IRS using a non-pyrethroid insecticide and full coverage of deltamethrin treated nets on the behavior of An. gambiae s.l. in the intervention areas compared to untreated areas used as controls. METHODS: Mosquitoes were collected using human landing catches, pyrethrum spray catches and window exit traps to assess reduction of entry rate, endophily rate, endophagy rate and overall mortality rate in natural populations of An. gambiae s.l. before IRS and LLITNs intervention (2007) and after in 2008 and 2010. RESULTS: In the IRS arm, endophily rate was 67.13% before intervention and 4.5% after intervention, whereas in the control arm it was stable at 51.67% (P > 0 .05). In the LLITN arm endophily rates also decreased after intervention. After the IRS, no gravid mosquitoes were collected from all treated localities, but LLITN performance was not that spectacular. The proportion of mosquitoes biting indoors in the IRS arm decreased from 67.09% before intervention to 42.85% after intervention, compared to a low but significant decrease (71.31% to 57. 46%) in the LLITN arm.The use of vector control tools and behavior of the host would be the main factors that modify the behavior of taking a human blood meal observed on An. gambiae s.l. inside human dwellings. CONCLUSION: The impact on the behavior of An. gambiae s.l. observed with the bendiocarb used in IRS was highly effective compared with the free distribution of LLITNs in terms of mortality and the decrease of proportions of indoor feeding. Despite this efficacy, there is a need for complementary tools and research of alternative strategy oriented on effective health education, and the use of powerful tools such as IRS, LLITNs, larviciding and repellents.

Concepts: Blood, Malaria, Anopheles, Effectiveness, Mosquito, Insecticide, DDT, Anopheles gambiae


BACKGROUND: The goal of malaria elimination necessitates an improved understanding of any fine-scale geographic variations in transmission risk so that complementary vector control tools can be integrated into current vector control programmes as supplementary measures that are spatially targeted to maximize impact upon residual transmission. This study examines the distribution of host-seeking malaria vectors at households within two villages in rural Tanzania. METHODS: Host-seeking mosquitoes were sampled from 72 randomly selected households in two villages on a monthly basis throughout 2008 using CDC light-traps placed beside occupied nets. Spatial autocorrelation in the dataset was examined using the Moran’s I statistic and the location of any clusters was identified using the Getis-Ord Gi* statistic. Statistical associations between the household characteristics and clusters of mosquitoes were assessed using a generalized linear model for each species. RESULTS: For both Anopheles gambiae sensu lato and Anopheles funestus, the density of host-seeking females was spatially autocorrelated, or clustered. For both species, houses with low densities were clustered in the semi-urban village centre while houses with high densities were clustered in the periphery of the villages. Clusters of houses with low or high densities of An. gambiae s.l. were influenced by the number of residents in nearby houses. The occurrence of high-density clusters of An. gambiae s.l. was associated with lower elevations while An. funestus was also associated with higher elevations. Distance from the village centre was also positively correlated with the number of household occupants and having houses constructed with open eaves. CONCLUSION: The results of the current study highlight that complementary vector control tools could be most effectively targeted to the periphery of villages where the households potentially have a higher hazard (mosquito densities) and vulnerability (open eaves and larger households) to malaria infection.

Concepts: Statistics, Malaria, Anopheles, Mosquito, Yellow fever, Vector, Mosquito control, Anopheles gambiae


The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum contains a nonphotosynthetic plastid organelle that possesses plant-like metabolic pathways. Plants use the plastidial isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway to produce volatile odorants, known as terpenes. In this work, we describe the volatile chemical profile of cultured malaria parasites. Among the identified compounds are several plant-like terpenes and terpene derivatives, including known mosquito attractants. We establish the molecular identity of the odorant receptors of the malaria mosquito vector Anopheles gambiae, which responds to these compounds. The malaria parasite produces volatile signals that are recognized by mosquitoes and may thereby mediate host attraction and facilitate transmission.

Concepts: Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium, Plasmodium vivax, Anopheles, Apicomplexa, Mosquito, Anopheles gambiae


Gene drive systems that enable super-Mendelian inheritance of a transgene have the potential to modify insect populations over a timeframe of a few years. We describe CRISPR-Cas9 endonuclease constructs that function as gene drive systems in Anopheles gambiae, the main vector for malaria. We identified three genes (AGAP005958, AGAP011377 and AGAP007280) that confer a recessive female-sterility phenotype upon disruption, and inserted into each locus CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive constructs designed to target and edit each gene. For each targeted locus we observed a strong gene drive at the molecular level, with transmission rates to progeny of 91.4 to 99.6%. Population modeling and cage experiments indicate that a CRISPR-Cas9 construct targeting one of these loci, AGAP007280, meets the minimum requirement for a gene drive targeting female reproduction in an insect population. These findings could expedite the development of gene drives to suppress mosquito populations to levels that do not support malaria transmission.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Allele, Biology, Malaria, Anopheles, Mosquito, Anopheles gambiae


We recently characterized 24-hr daily rhythmic patterns of gene expression in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. These include numerous odorant binding proteins (OBPs), soluble odorant carrying proteins enriched in olfactory organs. Here we demonstrate that multiple rhythmically expressed genes including OBPs and takeout proteins, involved in regulating blood feeding behavior, have corresponding rhythmic protein levels as measured by quantitative proteomics. This includes AgamOBP1, previously shown as important to An. gambiae odorant sensing. Further, electrophysiological investigations demonstrate time-of-day specific differences in olfactory sensitivity of antennae to major host-derived odorants. The pre-dusk/dusk peaks in OBPs and takeout gene expression correspond with peak protein abundance at night, and in turn coincide with the time of increased olfactory sensitivity to odorants requiring OBPs and times of increased blood-feeding behavior. This suggests an important role for OBPs in modulating temporal changes in odorant sensitivity, enabling the olfactory system to coordinate with the circadian niche of An. gambiae.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Transcription, Anopheles, Anopheles gambiae


BACKGROUND: The emergence and spread of insecticide resistance in the major African malaria vectors Anopheles gambiae s.s. and Anopheles arabiensis may compromise control initiatives based on insecticide treated nets (ITNs) or indoor residual spraying (IRS), and thus threaten the global malaria elimination strategy. METHODS: We investigated pyrethroid resistance in four populations of An. arabiensis from south-western Ethiopia and then assessed the bio-efficacy of six World Health Organization recommended long lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) using these populations. RESULTS: For all four populations of An. arabiensis, bottle bioassays indicated low to moderate susceptibility to deltamethrin (mortality at 30 minutes ranged between 43 and 80%) and permethrin (mortality ranged between 16 and 76%). Pre-exposure to the synergist piperonyl butoxide (PBO) significantly increased the susceptibility of all four populations to both deltamethrin (mortality increased between 15.3 and 56.8%) and permethrin (mortality increased between 11.6 and 58.1%), indicating the possible involvement of metabolic resistance in addition to the previously identified kdr mutations. There was reduced susceptibility of all four An. arabiensis populations to the five standard LLINs tested (maximum mortality 81.1%; minimum mortality 13.9%). Bio-efficacy against the four populations varied by net type, with the largest margin of difference observed with the Jimma population (67.2% difference). Moreover, there were differences in the bio-efficacy of each individual standard LLIN against the four mosquito populations; for example there was a difference of 40% in mortality of Yorkool against two populations. Results from standard LLINs indicated reduced susceptibility to new, unused nets that was likely due to observed pyrethroid resistance. The roof of the combination LLIN performed optimally (100% mortality) against all the four populations of An. arabiensis, indicating that observed reductions in susceptibility could be ameliorated with the combination of PBO with deltamethrin, as used in PermaNet® 3.0. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that bio-efficacy evaluations using local mosquito populations should be conducted where possible to make evidence-based decisions on the most suitable control products, and that those combining multiple chemicals such as PBO and deltamethrin should be considered for maintaining a high level of efficacy in vector control programmes.

Concepts: Malaria, Anopheles, Pesticide, Mosquito control, Insecticide, DDT, Pyrethroid, Anopheles gambiae


The control of mosquito populations with insecticide treated bed nets and indoor residual sprays remains the cornerstone of malaria reduction and elimination programs. In light of widespread insecticide resistance in mosquitoes, however, alternative strategies for reducing transmission by the mosquito vector are urgently needed, including the identification of safe compounds that affect vectorial capacity via mechanisms that differ from fast-acting insecticides. Here, we show that compounds targeting steroid hormone signaling disrupt multiple biological processes that are key to the ability of mosquitoes to transmit malaria. When an agonist of the steroid hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) is applied to Anopheles gambiae females, which are the dominant malaria mosquito vector in Sub Saharan Africa, it substantially shortens lifespan, prevents insemination and egg production, and significantly blocks Plasmodium falciparum development, three components that are crucial to malaria transmission. Modeling the impact of these effects on Anopheles population dynamics and Plasmodium transmission predicts that disrupting steroid hormone signaling using 20E agonists would affect malaria transmission to a similar extent as insecticides. Manipulating 20E pathways therefore provides a powerful new approach to tackle malaria transmission by the mosquito vector, particularly in areas affected by the spread of insecticide resistance.

Concepts: Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium, Anopheles, Mosquito, Yellow fever, Culicidae, Anopheles gambiae


Temperature sensors are crucial for animals to optimize living conditions. The temperature response of the ion channel transient receptor potential A1 (TRPA1) is intriguing, some orthologs have been reported to be activated by cold and others by heat, but the molecular mechanisms responsible for its activation remain elusive. Single-channel electrophysiological recordings of heterologously expressed and purified Anopheles gambiae TRPA1 (AgTRPA1), with and without the N-terminal ankyrin repeat domain, demonstrate that both proteins are functional as they responded to the electrophilic compounds allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) and cinnamaldehyde as well as heat. The proteins similar intrinsic fluorescence properties and corresponding quenching when activated by AITC or heat, suggest lipid bilayer-independent conformational changes outside the N-terminal domain. The results show that AgTRPA1 is an inherent temperature- and chemoreceptor, and analogous to what has been reported for the human TRPA1 ortholog the N-terminal domain may tune the response but is not required for the activation by these stimuli.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Receptor, Action potential, Ion channel, N-terminus, Electrophile, Anopheles gambiae