The mosquito Anopheles gambiae is a major vector of human malaria. Increasing evidence indicates that blood cells (hemocytes) comprise an essential arm of the mosquito innate immune response against both bacteria and malaria parasites. To further characterize the role of hemocytes in mosquito immunity, we undertook the first genome-wide transcriptomic analyses of adult female An. gambiae hemocytes following infection by two species of bacteria and a malaria parasite.
We identified 4047 genes expressed in hemocytes, using An. gambiae genome-wide microarrays. While 279 transcripts were significantly enriched in hemocytes relative to whole adult female mosquitoes, 959 transcripts exhibited immune challenge-related regulation. The global transcriptomic responses of hemocytes to challenge with different species of bacteria and/or different stages of malaria parasite infection revealed discrete, minimally overlapping, pathogen-specific signatures of infection-responsive gene expression; 105 of these represented putative immunity-related genes including anti-Plasmodium factors. Of particular interest was the specific co-regulation of various members of the Imd and JNK immune signaling pathways during malaria parasite invasion of the mosquito midgut epithelium.
Our genome-wide transcriptomic analysis of adult mosquito hemocytes reveals pathogen-specific signatures of gene regulation and identifies several novel candidate genes for future functional studies.