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1.  The salivary gland transcriptome of the neotropical malaria vector Anopheles darlingi reveals accelerated evolution of genes relevant to hematophagy 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:57.
Mosquito saliva, consisting of a mixture of dozens of proteins affecting vertebrate hemostasis and having sugar digestive and antimicrobial properties, helps both blood and sugar meal feeding. Culicine and anopheline mosquitoes diverged ~150 MYA, and within the anophelines, the New World species diverged from those of the Old World ~95 MYA. While the sialotranscriptome (from the Greek sialo, saliva) of several species of the Cellia subgenus of Anopheles has been described thoroughly, no detailed analysis of any New World anopheline has been done to date. Here we present and analyze data from a comprehensive salivary gland (SG) transcriptome of the neotropical malaria vector Anopheles darlingi (subgenus Nyssorhynchus).
A total of 2,371 clones randomly selected from an adult female An. darlingi SG cDNA library were sequenced and used to assemble a database that yielded 966 clusters of related sequences, 739 of which were singletons. Primer extension experiments were performed in selected clones to further extend sequence coverage, allowing for the identification of 183 protein sequences, 114 of which code for putative secreted proteins.
Comparative analysis of sialotranscriptomes of An. darlingi and An. gambiae reveals significant divergence of salivary proteins. On average, salivary proteins are only 53% identical, while housekeeping proteins are 86% identical between the two species. Furthermore, An. darlingi proteins were found that match culicine but not anopheline proteins, indicating loss or rapid evolution of these proteins in the old world Cellia subgenus. On the other hand, several well represented salivary protein families in old world anophelines are not expressed in An. darlingi.
PMCID: PMC2644710  PMID: 19178717
2.  Immunization of Mice with Recombinant Mosquito Salivary Protein D7 Enhances Mortality from Subsequent West Nile Virus Infection via Mosquito Bite 
Mosquito salivary proteins (MSPs) modulate the host immune response, leading to enhancement of arboviral infections. Identification of proteins in saliva responsible for immunomodulation and counteracting their effects on host immune response is a potential strategy to protect against arboviral disease. We selected a member of the D7 protein family, which are among the most abundant and immunogenic in mosquito saliva, as a vaccine candidate with the aim of neutralizing effects on the mammalian immune response normally elicited by mosquito saliva components during arbovirus transmission.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We identified D7 salivary proteins of Culex tarsalis, a West Nile virus (WNV) vector in North America, and expressed 36 kDa recombinant D7 (rD7) protein for use as a vaccine. Vaccinated mice exhibited enhanced interferon-γ and decreased interleukin-10 expression after uninfected mosquito bite; however, we found unexpectedly that rD7 vaccination resulted in enhanced pathogenesis from mosquito-transmitted WNV infection. Passive transfer of vaccinated mice sera to naïve mice also resulted in increased mortality rates from subsequent mosquito-transmitted WNV infection, implicating the humoral immune response to the vaccine in enhancement of viral pathogenesis. Vaccinated mice showed decreases in interferon-γ and increases in splenocytes producing the regulatory cytokine IL-10 after WNV infection by mosquito bite.
Vector saliva vaccines have successfully protected against other blood-feeding arthropod-transmitted diseases. Nevertheless, the rD7 salivary protein vaccine was not a good candidate for protection against WNV disease since immunized mice infected via an infected mosquito bite exhibited enhanced mortality. Selection of salivary protein vaccines on the bases of abundance and immunogenicity does not predict efficacy.
Author Summary
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus found on all continents except Antarctica. Humans and equines are not part of the natural transmission cycle, but when they become infected severe illness or death can result. There is no human vaccine for WNV available, so novel approaches to preventing infection are needed. Mosquito saliva deposited with WNV alters the immune response of the bitten host and potentiates virus transmission and pathogenesis. Previous research with pre-exposure to arthropod salivary proteins showed promising results in blocking the transmission of malaria and Leishmania parasites, thus we hypothesized a similar outcome for vaccination with a MSP in protection from arbovirus disease. Unexpectedly, our results showed that administration of a vaccine consisting of a recombinant mosquito salivary protein (rD7) and subsequent mosquito transmission of WNV led to more severe disease and increased death rates in mice. Additionally, when serum from vaccinated mice was transferred to naïve mice, those animals also succumbed to severe mosquito-transmitted WNV disease, suggesting that anti-rD7 antibodies elicited by the vaccine played a role in enhanced disease. We conclude that the rD7 protein vaccine we developed is not a suitable candidate for altering the host immune response to WNV infection to provide increased protection from disease.
PMCID: PMC3516580  PMID: 23236530
3.  Transmission of West Nile Virus by Culex quinquefasciatus Say Infected with Culex Flavivirus Izabal 
The natural history and potential impact of mosquito-specific flaviviruses on the transmission efficiency of West Nile virus (WNV) is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine whether or not prior infection with Culex flavivirus (CxFV) Izabal altered the vector competence of Cx. quinquefasciatus Say for transmission of a co-circulating strain of West Nile virus (WNV) from Guatemala.
Methods and Findings
CxFV-negative Culex quinquefasciatus and those infected with CxFV Izabal by intrathoracic inoculation were administered WNV-infectious blood meals. Infection, dissemination, and transmission of WNV were measured by plaque titration on Vero cells of individual mosquito bodies, legs, or saliva, respectively, two weeks following WNV exposure. Additional groups of Cx. quinquefasciatus were intrathoracically inoculated with WNV alone or WNV+CxFV Izabal simultaneously, and saliva collected nine days post inoculation. Growth of WNV in Aedes albopictus C6/36 cells or Cx. quinquefasciatus was not inhibited by prior infection with CxFV Izabal. There was no significant difference in the vector competence of Cx. quinquefasciatus for WNV between mosquitoes uninfected or infected with CxFV Izabal across multiple WNV blood meal titers and two colonies of Cx. quinquefasciatus (p>0.05). However, significantly more Cx. quinquefasciatus from Honduras that were co-inoculated simultaneously with both viruses transmitted WNV than those inoculated with WNV alone (p = 0.0014). Co-inoculated mosquitoes that transmitted WNV also contained CxFV in their saliva, whereas mosquitoes inoculated with CxFV alone did not contain virus in their saliva.
In the sequential infection experiments, prior infection with CxFV Izabal had no significant impact on WNV replication, infection, dissemination, or transmission by Cx. quinquefasciatus, however WNV transmission was enhanced in the Honduras colony when mosquitoes were inoculated simultaneously with both viruses.
Author Summary
Unlike most known flaviviruses (Family, Flaviviridae: Genus, Flavivirus), insect-only flaviviruses are a unique group of flaviviruses that only infect invertebrates. The study of insect-only flaviviruses has increased in recent years due to the discovery and characterization of numerous novel flaviviruses from a diversity of mosquito species around the world. The widespread discovery of these viruses has prompted questions regarding flavivirus evolution and the potential impact of these viruses on the transmission of flaviviruses of public health importance such as WNV. Therefore, we tested the effect of Culex flavivirus Izabal (CxFV Izabal), an insect-only flavivirus isolated from Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes in Guatemala, on the growth and transmission of a strain of WNV isolated concurrently from the same mosquito species and location. Prior infection of C6/36 (Aedes albopictus mosquito) cells or Cx. quinquefasciatus with CxFV Izabal did not alter the replication kinetics of WNV, nor did it significantly affect WNV infection, dissemination, or transmission rates in two different colonies of mosquitoes that were fed blood meals containing varying concentrations of WNV. These data demonstrate that CxFV probably does not have a significant effect on WNV transmission efficiency in nature.
PMCID: PMC2864301  PMID: 20454569
4.  An insight into the sialome of Anopheles funestus reveals an emerging pattern in anopheline salivary protein families 
Anopheles funestus, together with Anopheles gambiae, is responsible for most malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa, but little is known about molecular aspects of its biology. To investigate the salivary repertoire of this mosquito, we randomly sequenced 916 clones from a salivary-gland cDNA library from adult female F1 offspring of field-caught An. funestus. Thirty-three protein sequences, mostly full-length transcripts, are predicted to be secreted salivary proteins. We additionally describe 25 full-length housekeeping-associated transcripts. In accumulating mosquito sialotranscriptome information—which includes An. gambiae, Anopheles stephensi, Anopheles darlingi, Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus, and now An. funestus—a pattern is emerging. First, ubiquitous protein families are recruited for a salivary role, such as members of the antigen-5 family and enzymes of nucleotide and carbohydrate catabolism. Second, a group of protein families exclusive to blood-feeding Nematocera includes the abundantly expressed D7 proteins also found in sand flies and Culicoides. A third group of proteins, only found in Culicidae, includes the 30-kDa allergen family and several mucins. Finally, ten protein and peptide families, five of them multigenic, are exclusive to anophelines. Among these proteins may reside good epidemiological markers to measure human exposure to anopheline species such as An. funestus and An. gambiae.
PMCID: PMC1853278  PMID: 17244545
Malaria; Hematophagy; Salivary glands; Vector; Saliva
5.  Modeling/GIS, Risk Assessment, Economic Impact: Seasonal Patterns for Entomological Measures of Risk for Exposure to Culex Vectors and West Nile Virus in Relation to Human Disease Cases in Northeastern Colorado 
Journal of medical entomology  2009;46(6):1519-1531.
We examined seasonal patterns for entomological measures of risk for exposure to Culex vectors and West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) in relation to human WNV disease cases in a five-county area of northeastern Colorado during 2006–2007. Studies along habitat/elevation gradients in 2006 showed that the seasonal activity period is shortened and peak numbers occur later in the summer for Culex tarsalis Coquillett females in foothills-montane areas >1,600 m compared with plains areas <1,600 m in Colorado’s Front Range. Studies in the plains of northeastern Colorado in 2007 showed that seasonal patterns of abundance for Cx. tarsalis and Culex pipiens L. females differed in that Cx. tarsalis reached peak abundance in early July (mean of 328.9 females per trap night for 18 plains sites), whereas the peak for Cx. pipiens did not occur until late August (mean of 16.4 females per trap night). During June–September in 2007, which was a year of intense WNV activity in Colorado with 578 reported WNV disease cases, we recorded WNV-infected Cx. tarsalis females from 16 of 18 sites in the plains. WNV infection rates in Cx. tarsalis females increased gradually from late June to peak in mid-August (overall maximum likelihood estimate for WNV infection rate of 8.29 per 1,000 females for the plains sites in mid-August). No WNV-infected Culex mosquitoes were recorded from sites >1,600 m. The vector index for abundance of WNV-infected Cx. tarsalis females for the plains sites combined exceeded 0.50 from mid-July to mid-August, with at least one site exceeding 1.00 from early July to late August. Finally, we found that abundance of Cx. tarsalis females and the vector index for infected females were strongly associated with weekly numbers of WNV disease cases with onset 4–7 wk later (female abundance) or 1–2 wk later (vector index).
PMCID: PMC2802831  PMID: 19960707
Culex pipiens; Culex tarsalis; Colorado; seasonal risk; West Nile virus
6.  Mosquitoes Inoculate High Doses of West Nile Virus as They Probe and Feed on Live Hosts 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(9):e132.
West Nile virus (WNV) is transmitted to vertebrate hosts by mosquitoes as they take a blood meal. The amount of WNV inoculated by mosquitoes as they feed on a live host is not known. Previous estimates of the amount of WNV inoculated by mosquitoes (101.2–104.3 PFU) were based on in vitro assays that do not allow mosquitoes to probe or feed naturally. Here, we developed an in vivo assay to determine the amount of WNV inoculated by mosquitoes as they probe and feed on peripheral tissues of a mouse or chick. Using our assay, we recovered approximately one-third of a known amount of virus inoculated into mouse tissues. Accounting for unrecovered virus, mean and median doses of WNV inoculated by four mosquito species were 104.3 PFU and 105.0 PFU for Culex tarsalis, 105.9 PFU and 106.1 PFU for Cx. pipiens, 104.7 PFU and 104.7 PFU for Aedes japonicus, and 103.6 PFU and 103.4 PFU for Ae. triseriatus. In a direct comparison, in vivo estimates of the viral dose inoculated by Cx. tarsalis were approximately 600 times greater than estimates obtained by an in vitro capillary tube transmission assay. Virus did not disperse rapidly, as >99% of the virus was recovered from the section fed or probed upon by the mosquito. Furthermore, 76% (22/29) of mosquitoes inoculated a small amount of virus (∼102 PFU) directly into the blood while feeding. Direct introduction of virus into the blood may alter viral tropism, lead to earlier development of viremia, and cause low rates of infection in co-feeding mosquitoes. Our data demonstrate that mosquitoes inoculate high doses of WNV extravascularly and low doses intravascularly while probing and feeding on a live host. Accurate estimates of the viral dose inoculated by mosquitoes are critical in order to administer appropriate inoculation doses to animals in vaccine, host competence, and pathogenesis studies.
Author Summary
Since it was first introduced into the United States in 1999, West Nile virus (WNV) has caused significant disease in humans, horses, and other animals. WNV is transmitted to humans and other vertebrate hosts by female mosquitoes as they take a blood meal. Currently, the amount of virus inoculated by mosquitoes while feeding on live hosts is unknown, and accurate estimates are critical so that appropriate challenge doses can be used in vaccine and viral pathogenesis studies. Here, we use a novel technique to determine the dose of WNV inoculated by mosquitoes as they probe and feed on the peripheral tissues of live animals. We found that mosquitoes inoculate high doses of virus into host tissues; these doses are 10 to 1,000 times higher than previous estimates obtained with assays that do not allow mosquitoes to probe or feed naturally. We also found that mosquitoes inoculate low doses of virus directly into the blood while blood feeding. Direct introduction of virus into the blood may alter viral tropism and cause low rates of infection in co-feeding mosquitoes. Our study provides new insights into the transmission of an emerging viral pathogen and the interaction of virus with its mosquito vector and vertebrate host.
PMCID: PMC1976553  PMID: 17941708
7.  Vector Competence of California Mosquitoes for West Nile virus 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2002;8(12):1385-1391.
To identify the mosquito species competent for West Nile virus (WNV) transmission, we evaluated 10 California species that are known vectors of other arboviruses or major pests: Culex tarsalis, Cx. pipiens pipiens, Cx. p. quinquefasciatus, Cx. stigmatosoma, Cx. erythrothorax, Ochlerotatus dorsalis, Oc. melanimon, Oc. sierrensis, Aedes vexans, and Culiseta inornata. All 10 became infected and were able to transmit WNV at some level. Ochlerotatus, Culiseta, and Aedes were low to moderately efficient vectors. They feed primarily on mammals and could play a secondary role in transmission. Oc. sierrensis, a major pest species, and Cx. p. quinquefasciatus from southern California were the least efficient laboratory vectors. Cx. tarsalis, Cx. stigmatosoma, Cx. erythrothorax, and other populations of Cx. pipiens complex were the most efficient laboratory vectors. Culex species are likely to play the primary role in the enzootic maintenance and transmission of WNV in California.
PMCID: PMC2738502  PMID: 12498652
West Nile virus; vector competence; mosquito; Culex
8.  A deep insight into the sialotranscriptome of the mosquito, Psorophora albipes 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:875.
Psorophora mosquitoes are exclusively found in the Americas and have been associated with transmission of encephalitis and West Nile fever viruses, among other arboviruses. Mosquito salivary glands represent the final route of differentiation and transmission of many parasites. They also secrete molecules with powerful pharmacologic actions that modulate host hemostasis, inflammation, and immune response. Here, we employed next generation sequencing and proteome approaches to investigate for the first time the salivary composition of a mosquito member of the Psorophora genus. We additionally discuss the evolutionary position of this mosquito genus into the Culicidae family by comparing the identity of its secreted salivary compounds to other mosquito salivary proteins identified so far.
Illumina sequencing resulted in 13,535,229 sequence reads, which were assembled into 3,247 contigs. All families were classified according to their in silico-predicted function/ activity. Annotation of these sequences allowed classification of their products into 83 salivary protein families, twenty (24.39%) of which were confirmed by our subsequent proteome analysis. Two protein families were deorphanized from Aedes and one from Ochlerotatus, while four protein families were described as novel to Psorophora genus because they had no match with any other known mosquito salivary sequence. Several protein families described as exclusive to Culicines were present in Psorophora mosquitoes, while we did not identify any member of the protein families already known as unique to Anophelines. Also, the Psorophora salivary proteins had better identity to homologs in Aedes (69.23%), followed by Ochlerotatus (8.15%), Culex (6.52%), and Anopheles (4.66%), respectively.
This is the first sialome (from the Greek sialo = saliva) catalog of salivary proteins from a Psorophora mosquito, which may be useful for better understanding the lifecycle of this mosquito and the role of its salivary secretion in arboviral transmission.
PMCID: PMC3878727  PMID: 24330624
9.  Overwintering Biology of Culex (Diptera: Culicidae) Mosquitoes in the Sacramento Valley of California 
Journal of medical entomology  2013;50(4):773-790.
At temperate latitudes, Culex (Diptera: Culicidae) mosquitoes typically overwinter as adult females in reproductive arrest and also may serve as reservoir hosts for arboviruses when cold temperatures arrest viral replication. To evaluate their role in the persistence of West Nile virus (WNV) in the Sacramento Valley of California, the induction and termination of diapause were investigated for members of the Culex pipiens (L.) complex, Culex tarsalis Coquillett, and Culex stigmatosoma Dyar under field, seminatural, and experimental conditions. All Culex spp. remained vagile throughout winter, enabling the collection of 3,174 females and 1,706 males from diverse habitats during the winters of 2010–2012. Overwintering strategies included both quiescence and diapause. In addition, Cx. pipiens form molestus Forskäl females remained reproductively active in both underground and aboveground habitats. Some blood-fed, gravid, and parous Cx. tarsalis and Cx. pipiens complex females were collected throughout the winter period. Under both field and experimental conditions, Cx. tarsalis and Cx. stigmatosoma females exposed to autumnal conditions arrested primary follicular maturation at previtellogenic stage I, with primary to secondary follicular ratios <1.5 (indicative of a hormonally induced diapause). In contrast, most Cx. pipiens complex females did not enter reproductive diapause and ovarian follicles matured to ≥stage I–II (host-seeking arrest) or were found in various stages of degeneration. Diapause was initiated in the majority of Cx. tarsalis and Cx. stigmatosoma females by mid-late October and was terminated after the winter solstice, but host-seeking seemed limited by temperature. An accrual of 97.52 ± 30.7 and 162.85 ± 79.3 degree-days after the winter solstice was estimated to be necessary for diapause termination in Cx. tarsalis under field and seminatural conditions, respectively. An increase in the proportion of blood-fed Culex females in resting collections occurred concurrently with diapause termination in field populations based on ovarian morphometrics. WNV RNA was detected in one pool of 18 males and in a single blood-fed female Cx. tarsalis collected during winter. Therefore, both vertically and horizontally infected Culex females may persist through winter and possibly transmit WNV after diapause termination in late winter or early spring in the Sacramento Valley of California.
PMCID: PMC3920460  PMID: 23926775
diapause; quiescence; West Nile virus; degree-day; molestus
10.  Effects of larval rearing temperature on immature development and West Nile virus vector competence of Culex tarsalis 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:199.
Temperature is known to induce changes in mosquito physiology, development, ecology, and in some species, vector competence for arboviruses. Since colonized mosquitoes are reared under laboratory conditions that can be significantly different from their field counterparts, laboratory vector competence experiments may not accurately reflect natural vector-virus interactions.
We evaluated the effects of larval rearing temperature on immature development parameters and vector competence of two Culex tarsalis strains for West Nile virus (WNV).
Rearing temperature had a significant effect on mosquito developmental parameters, including shorter time to pupation and emergence and smaller female body size as temperature increased. However, infection, dissemination, and transmission rates for WNV at 5, 7, and 14 days post infectious feeding were not consistently affected.
These results suggest that varying constant larval rearing temperature does not significantly affect laboratory estimates of vector competence for WNV in Culex tarsalis mosquitoes.
PMCID: PMC3480948  PMID: 22967798
Mosquito; West Nile virus; Global climate change; Transmission; Development
11.  Culex tarsalis Vitellogenin Gene Promoters Investigated In Silico and In Vivo Using Transgenic Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88994.
Genetic modification, or transgenesis, is a powerful technique to investigate the molecular interactions between vector-borne pathogens and their arthropod hosts, as well as a potential novel approach for vector-borne disease control. Transgenesis requires the use of specific regulatory regions, or promoters, to drive expression of genes of interest in desired target tissues. In mosquitoes, the vast majority of described promoters are from Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes.
Culex tarsalis is one of the most important vectors of arboviruses (including West Nile virus) in North America, yet it has not been the subject of molecular genetic study. In order to facilitate molecular genetic work in this important vector species, we isolated four fat body-specific promoter sequences located upstream of the Cx. tarsalis vitellogenin genes (Vg1a, Vg1b, Vg2a and Vg2b). Sequences were analyzed in silico to identify requisite cis-acting elements. The ability for promoter sequences to drive expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in vivo was investigated using transgenic Drosophila melanogaster. All four promoters were able to drive GFP expression but there was dramatic variation between promoters and between individual Drosophila lines, indicating significant position effects. The highest expression was observed in line Vg2bL3, which was >300-fold higher than the lowest line Vg1aL2.
These new promoters will be useful for driving expression of genes of interest in transgenic Cx. tarsalis and perhaps other insects.
PMCID: PMC3934883  PMID: 24586476
12.  Immunization with Culex tarsalis Mosquito Salivary Gland Extract Modulates West Nile Virus Infection and Disease in Mice 
Viral Immunology  2013;26(1):84-92.
Mosquito salivary proteins inoculated during blood feeding modulate the host immune response, which can contribute to the pathogenesis of viruses transmitted by mosquito bites. Previous studies with mosquito bite-naïve mice indicated that exposure to arthropod salivary proteins resulted in a shift toward a Th2-type immune response in flavivirus-susceptible mice but not flavivirus-resistant animals. In the study presented here, we tested the hypothesis that immunization with high doses of Culex tarsalis salivary gland extracts (SGE) with an adjuvant would prevent Th2 polarization after mosquito bite and enhance resistance to mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus (WNV). Our results indicate that mice immunized with Cx. tarsalis SGE produced increased levels of Th1-type cytokines (IFNγ and TNFα) after challenge with mosquito-transmitted WNV and exhibited both a delay in infection of the central nervous system (CNS) and significantly lower WNV brain titers compared to mock-immunized mice. Moreover, mortality was significantly reduced in the SGE-immunized mice, as none of these mice died, compared to mortality of 37.5% of mock-vaccinated mice by 8 days after infected mosquito bite. These results suggest that development of a mosquito salivary protein vaccine might be a strategy to control arthropod-borne viral pathogens such as WNV.
PMCID: PMC3578371  PMID: 23362833
13.  Requirement of Glycosylation of West Nile Virus Envelope Protein for Infection of, but Not Spread within, Culex quinquefasciatus Mosquito Vectors 
Most of sequenced West Nile virus (WNV) genomes encode a single N-linked glycosylation site on their envelope (E) proteins. We previously found that WNV lacking the E protein glycan was severely inhibited in its ability to replicate and spread within two important mosquito vector species, Culex pipiens and Cx. tarsalis. However, recent work with a closely related species, Cx. pipiens pallens, found no association between E protein glycosylation and either replication or dissemination. To examine this finding further, we expanded upon our previous studies to include an additional Culex species, Cx. quinquefasciatus. The non-glycosylated WNV-N154I virus replicated less efficiently in mosquito tissues after intrathoracic inoculation, but there was little difference in replication efficiency in the midgut after peroral infection. Interestingly, although infectivity was inhibited when WNV lacked the E protein glycan, there was little difference in viral spread throughout the mosquito. These data indicate that E protein glycosylation affects WNV–vector interactions in a species-specific manner.
PMCID: PMC3144839  PMID: 21813861
14.  Identification of microRNAs expressed in two mosquito vectors, Aedes albopictus and Culex quinquefasciatus 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:119.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression in a variety of organisms, including insects, vertebrates, and plants. miRNAs play important roles in cell development and differentiation as well as in the cellular response to stress and infection. To date, there are limited reports of miRNA identification in mosquitoes, insects that act as essential vectors for the transmission of many human pathogens, including flaviviruses. West Nile virus (WNV) and dengue virus, members of the Flaviviridae family, are primarily transmitted by Aedes and Culex mosquitoes. Using high-throughput deep sequencing, we examined the miRNA repertoire in Ae. albopictus cells and Cx. quinquefasciatus mosquitoes.
We identified a total of 65 miRNAs in the Ae. albopictus C7/10 cell line and 77 miRNAs in Cx. quinquefasciatus mosquitoes, the majority of which are conserved in other insects such as Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae. The most highly expressed miRNA in both mosquito species was miR-184, a miRNA conserved from insects to vertebrates. Several previously reported Anopheles miRNAs, including miR-1890 and miR-1891, were also found in Culex and Aedes, and appear to be restricted to mosquitoes. We identified seven novel miRNAs, arising from nine different precursors, in C7/10 cells and Cx. quinquefasciatus mosquitoes, two of which have predicted orthologs in An. gambiae. Several of these novel miRNAs reside within a ~350 nt long cluster present in both Aedes and Culex. miRNA expression was confirmed by primer extension analysis. To determine whether flavivirus infection affects miRNA expression, we infected female Culex mosquitoes with WNV. Two miRNAs, miR-92 and miR-989, showed significant changes in expression levels following WNV infection.
Aedes and Culex mosquitoes are important flavivirus vectors. Recent advances in both mosquito genomics and high-throughput sequencing technologies enabled us to interrogate the miRNA profile in these two species. Here, we provide evidence for over 60 conserved and seven novel mosquito miRNAs, expanding upon our current understanding of insect miRNAs. Undoubtedly, some of the miRNAs identified will have roles not only in mosquito development, but also in mediating viral infection in the mosquito host.
PMCID: PMC2834634  PMID: 20167119
15.  Persistent West Nile Virus Transmission and the Apparent Displacement St. Louis Encephalitis Virus in Southeastern California, 2003−2006 
Journal of medical entomology  2008;45(3):494-508.
West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) invaded the Colorado Desert biome of southern California during summer 2003 and seemed to displace previously endemic St. Louis encephalitis virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, SLEV, an antigenically similar Flavivirus in the Japanese encephalitis virus serocomplex). Western equine encephalomyelitis virus (family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus, WEEV), an antigenically distinct Alphavirus, was detected during 2005 and 2006, indicating that conditions were suitable for encephalitis virus introduction and detection. Cross-protective “avian herd immunity” due to WNV infection possibly may have prevented SLEV reintroduction and/or amplification to detectable levels. During 2003−2006, WNV was consistently active at wetlands and agricultural habitats surrounding the Salton Sea where Culex tarsalis Coquillett served as the primary enzootic maintenance and amplification vector. Based on published laboratory infection studies and the current seroprevalence estimates, house sparrows, house finches, and several Ardeidae may have been important avian amplifying hosts in this region. Transmission efficiency may have been dampened by high infection rates in incompetent avian hosts, including Gamble's quail, mourning doves, common ground doves, and domestic pigeons. Early season WNV amplification and dispersal from North Shore in the southeastern portion of the Coachella Valley resulted in sporadic WNV incursions into the urbanized Upper Valley near Palm Springs, where Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus Say was the primary enzootic and bridge vector. Although relatively few human cases were detected during the 2003−2006 period, all were concentrated in the Upper Valley and were associated with high human population density and WNV infection in peridomestic populations of Cx. p. quinquefasciatus. Intensive early mosquito control during 2006 seemed to interrupt and delay transmission, perhaps setting the stage for the future reintroduction of SLEV.
PMCID: PMC2435167  PMID: 18533445
West Nile virus; St. Louis encephalitis virus; western equine encephalomyelitis virus; Culex tarsalis; Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus
16.  Larval Nutritional Stress Does Not Affect Vector Competence for West Nile Virus (WNV) in Culex tarsalis 
Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases  2011;11(11):1493-1497.
In some mosquito species the conditions experienced by larvae during development have been shown to lead to changes in susceptibility to various arboviruses in the adult female. Since laboratory mosquitoes are generally reared under ideal conditions, mosquito vector competence experiments in the laboratory may not accurately reflect vector–virus relationships in nature. We examined the consequences of larval nutritional stress on Culex tarsalis vector competence for West Nile virus (WNV). Larval nutrition deprivation resulted in increased development time, decreased pupation and emergence rates, and smaller adult female body size. However, infection, dissemination, and transmission rates for WNV at 5, 7, and 14 days postfeeding were not consistently affected. These results suggest that larval nutritional rearing protocols are not a major factor in laboratory estimates of WNV vector competence in Cx. tarsalis.
PMCID: PMC3216062  PMID: 21867417
Culex; West Nile
1. St. Louis virus has been successfully transmitted in the laboratory by the following 9 species of mosquitoes from 3 genera: Culex tarsalis, Culex pipiens, Culex coronator, Aedes lateralis, Aedes taeniorhynchus, Aedes vexans, Aedes nigromaculis, Theobaldia incidens, and Theobaldia inornata. 2. Though transmission has not been demonstrated, survival of the virus for more than a few days was shown to occur in Culex quinquefasciatus, Culex stigmatosoma, Psorophora ciliata, and Anopheles maculipennis freeborni. 3. In experiments with Culex tarsalis, infection occurred from feeding on chickens and ducks which had been previously inoculated by the subcutaneous route. After an incubation period these mosquitoes infected other chickens and virus was in turn demonstrated in the blood of these. This is interpreted as proof that fowl may serve as reservoirs of virus in nature. Since mosquitoes have been repeatedly found naturally infected with St. Louis virus and epidemiologic evidence supports their incrimination, their rôle as vectors is now established. The fully incriminated species is Culex tarsalis.
PMCID: PMC2135400  PMID: 19871325
18.  Use of Scented Sugar Bait Stations to Track Mosquito-Borne Arbovirus Transmission in California 
Journal of medical entomology  2012;49(6):1466-1472.
Laboratory and field research was conducted to determine if Culex tarsalis Coquillett expectorated West Nile virus (WNV) during sugar feeding and if a lure or bait station could be developed to exploit this behavior for WNV surveillance. Experimentally infected Cx. tarsalis repeatedly expectorated WNV onto filter paper strips and into vials with wicks containing sucrose that was readily detectable by a quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay. Few females (33%, n = 27) became infected by imbibing sugar solutions spiked with high concentrations (107 plaque forming units/ml) of WNV, indicating sugar feeding stations probably would not be a source of WNV infection. In nature, sugar bait stations scented with the floral attractant phenyl acetaldehyde tracked WNV transmission activity in desert but not urban or agricultural landscapes in California. When deployed in areas of the Coachella Valley with WNV activity during the summer of 2011, 27 of 400 weekly sugar samples (6.8%) tested positive for WNV RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Prevalence of positives varied spatially, but positive sugar stations were detected before concurrent surveillance measures of infection (mosquito pools) or transmission (sentinel chicken seroconversions). In contrast, sugar bait stations deployed in urban settings in Los Angeles or agricultural habits near Bakersfield in Kern County supporting WNV activity produced 1 of 90 and 0 of 60 positive weekly sugar samples, respectively. These results with sugar bait stations will require additional research to enhance bait attractancy and to understand the relationship between positive sugar stations and standard metrics of arbovirus surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3544359  PMID: 23270177
surveillance; West Nile virus; sugar feeding; bait station; Culex tarsalis
19.  Using Undergraduate Researchers to Build Vector and West Nile Virus Surveillance Capacity 
Vector surveillance for infectious diseases is labor intensive and constantly threatened by budget decisions. We report on outcomes of an undergraduate research experience designed to build surveillance capacity for West Nile Virus (WNV) in Montana (USA). Students maintained weekly trapping stations for mosquitoes and implemented assays to test for WNV in pools of Culex tarsalis. Test results were verified in a partnership with the state health laboratory and disseminated to the ArboNET Surveillance System. Combined with prior surveillance data, Cx. tarsalis accounted for 12% of mosquitoes with a mean capture rate of 74 (±SD = 118) Cx. tarsalis females per trap and a minimum infection rate of 0.3 infected mosquitoes per 1000 individuals. However, capture and infection rates varied greatly across years and locations. Infection rate, but not capture rate, was positively associated with the number of WNV human cases (Spearman’s rho = 0.94, p < 0.001). In most years, detection of the first positive mosquito pool occurred at least a week prior to the first reported human case. We suggest that undergraduate research can increase vector surveillance capacity while providing effective learning opportunities for students.
PMCID: PMC3774432  PMID: 23912200
West Nile Virus; vector surveillance; Culex tarsalis; arthropod vectors; infectious disease
20.  Modeling Monthly Variation of Culex tarsalis (Diptera: Culicidae) Abundance and West Nile Virus Infection Rate in the Canadian Prairies 
The Canadian prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have generally reported the highest human incidence of West Nile virus (WNV) in Canada. In this study, environmental and biotic factors were used to predict numbers of Culex tarsalis Coquillett, which is the primary mosquito vector of WNV in this region, and prevalence of WNV infection in Cx. tarsalis in the Canadian prairies. The results showed that higher mean temperature and elevated time lagged mean temperature were associated with increased numbers of Cx. tarsalis and higher WNV infection rates. However, increasing precipitation was associated with higher abundance of Cx. tarsalis and lower WNV infection rate. In addition, this study found that increased temperature fluctuation and wetland land cover were associated with decreased infection rate in the Cx. tarsalis population. The resulting monthly models can be used to inform public health interventions by improving the predictions of population abundance of Cx. tarsalis and the transmission intensity of WNV in the Canadian prairies. Furthermore, these models can also be used to examine the potential effects of climate change on the vector population abundance and the distribution of WNV.
PMCID: PMC3734475  PMID: 23880728
West Nile virus; Culex tarsalis; geographic information system; generalized linear mixed model; environmental variables; Canadian prairie
21.  Vertebrate attenuated West Nile virus mutants have differing effects on vector competence in Culex tarsalis mosquitoes 
The Journal of General Virology  2013;94(Pt 5):1069-1072.
Previous mutational analyses of naturally occurring West Nile virus (WNV) strains and engineered mutant WNV strains have identified locations in the viral genome that can have profound phenotypic effect on viral infectivity, temperature sensitivity and neuroinvasiveness. We chose six mutant WNV strains to evaluate for vector competence in the natural WNV vector Culex tarsalis, two of which contain multiple ablations of glycosylation sites in the envelope and NS1 proteins; three of which contain mutations in the NS4B protein and an attenuated natural bird isolate (Bird 1153) harbouring an NS4B mutation. Despite vertebrate attenuation, all NS4B mutant viruses displayed enhanced vector competence by Cx. tarsalis. Non-glycosylated mutant viruses displayed decreased vector competence in Cx. tarsalis mosquitoes, particularly when all three NS1 glycosylation sites were abolished. These results indicate the importance of both the NS4B protein and NS1 glycosylation in the transmission of WNV by a significant mosquito vector.
PMCID: PMC3998238  PMID: 23303828
22.  Spatial Variation in Host Feeding Patterns of Culex tarsalis and the Culex pipiens complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in California 
Journal of medical entomology  2012;49(4):903-916.
West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) is now endemic in California across a variety of ecological regions that support a wide diversity of potential avian and mammalian host species. Because different avian hosts have varying competence for WNV, determining the blood-feeding patterns of Culex (Diptera: Culicidae) vectors is a key component in understanding the maintenance and amplification of the virus as well as tangential transmission to humans and horses. We investigated the blood-feeding patterns of Culex tarsalis Coquillett and members of the Culex pipiens L. complex from southern to northern California. Nearly 100 different host species were identified from 1,487 bloodmeals, by using the mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase I (COI). Cx. tarsalis fed on a higher diversity of hosts and more frequently on nonhuman mammals than did the Cx. pipiens complex. Several WNV-competent host species, including house finch and house sparrow, were common bloodmeal sources for both vector species across several biomes and could account for WNV maintenance and amplification in these areas. Highly competent American crow, western scrub-jay and yellow-billed magpie also were fed upon often when available and are likely important as amplifying hosts for WNV in some areas. Neither species fed frequently on humans (Cx. pipiens complex [0.4%], Cx. tarsalis [0.2%]), but with high abundance, both species could serve as both enzootic and bridge vectors for WNV.
PMCID: PMC3542768  PMID: 22897051
Culex tarsalis; Culex pipiens; bloodmeal; host identification; host diversity
23.  West Nile virus envelope protein glycosylation is required for efficient viral transmission by Culex vectors 
Virology  2009;387(1):222-228.
Many, but not all, strains of West Nile virus (WNV) contain a single N-linked glycosylation site on their envelope (E) proteins. Previous studies have shown that E-glycosylated strains are more neuroinvasive in mice than non-glycosylated strains. E protein glycosylation also appears to play a role in attachment and entry of WNV into host cells in vitro; however, studies examining how E protein glycosylation affects the interactions of WNV with its mosquito vectors in vivo have not yet been performed. We mutated the E protein glycosylation site from NYS to IYS in a previously described full-length clone of the NY99 genotype of WNV (WT), resulting in a virus that lacked the glycan at aa154. WNV-N154I replicated less efficiently than WNV-WT in Culex mosquito tissues, although the extent of the decrease was greater in Cx. pipiens than in Cx. tarsalis. Following peroral infection, mosquitoes infected with WNV-N154I were less likely to transmit virus than those infected with WNV-WT. Interestingly, all but one of the mosquitoes infected with WNV-N154I transmitted a revertant virus, suggesting that there is strong selective pressure toward E protein glycosylation. Together these data suggest that loss of the glycans at aa154 on the WNV E protein can severely restrict viral spread in the mosquito vector.
PMCID: PMC2742948  PMID: 19249803
West Nile virus; glycosylation; virus-vector interactions
24.  Predicting outbreaks: a spatial risk assessment of West Nile virus in British Columbia 
West Nile virus (WNv) has recently emerged as a health threat to the North American population. After the initial disease outbreak in New York City in 1999, WNv has spread widely and quickly across North America to every contiguous American state and Canadian province, with the exceptions of British Columbia (BC), Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. In this study we develop models of mosquito population dynamics for Culex tarsalis and C. pipiens, and create a spatial risk assessment of WNv prior to its arrival in BC by creating a raster-based mosquito abundance model using basic geographic and temperature data. Among the parameters included in the model are spatial factors determined from the locations of BC Centre for Disease Control mosquito traps (e.g., distance of the trap from the closest wetland or lake), while other parameters were obtained from the literature. Factors not considered in the current assessment but which could influence the results are also discussed.
Since the model performs much better for C. tarsalis than for C. pipiens, the risk assessment is carried out using the output of C. tarsalis model. The result of the spatially-explicit mosquito abundance model indicates that the Okanagan Valley, the Thompson Region, Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and southeastern Vancouver Island have the highest potential abundance of the mosquitoes. After including human population data, Greater Vancouver, due to its high population density, increases in significance relative to the other areas.
Creating a raster-based mosquito abundance map enabled us to quantitatively evaluate WNv risk throughout BC and to identify the areas of greatest potential risk, prior to WNv introduction. In producing the map important gaps in our knowledge related to mosquito ecology in BC were identified, as well, it became evident that increased efforts in bird and mosquito surveillance are required if more accurate models and maps are to be produced. Access to real time climatic data is the key for developing a real time early warning system for forecasting vector borne disease outbreaks, while including social factors is important when producing a detailed assessment in urban areas.
PMCID: PMC1523258  PMID: 16704737
25.  Sequencing of Culex quinquefasciatus establishes a platform for mosquito comparative genomics 
Arensburger, Peter | Megy, Karine | Waterhouse, Robert M. | Abrudan, Jenica | Amedeo, Paolo | Antelo, Beatriz | Bartholomay, Lyric | Bidwell, Shelby | Caler, Elisabet | Camara, Francisco | Campbell, Corey L. | Campbell, Kathryn S. | Casola, Claudio | Castro, Marta T. | Chandramouliswaran, Ishwar | Chapman, Sinéad B. | Christley, Scott | Costas, Javier | Eisenstadt, Eric | Feshotte, Cedric | Fraser-Liggett, Claire | Guigo, Roderic | Haas, Brian | Hammond, Martin | Hansson, Bill S. | Hemingway, Janet | Hill, Sharon | Howarth, Clint | Ignell, Rickard | Kennedy, Ryan C. | Kodira, Chinnappa D. | Lobo, Neil F. | Mao, Chunhong | Mayhew, George | Michel, Kristin | Mori, Akio | Liu, Nannan | Naveira, Horacio | Nene, Vishvanath | Nguyen, Nam | Pearson, Matthew D. | Pritham, Ellen J. | Puiu, Daniela | Qi, Yumin | Ranson, Hilary | Ribeiro, Jose M. C. | Roberston, Hugh M. | Severson, David W. | Shumway, Martin | Stanke, Mario | Strausberg, Robert | Sun, Cheng | Sutton, Granger | Tu, Zhijian (Jake) | Tubio, Jose Manuel C. | Unger, Maria F. | Vanlandingham, Dana L. | Vilella, Albert J. | White, Owen | White, Jared R. | Wondji, Charles S. | Wortman, Jennifer | Zdobnov, Evgeny M. | Birren, Bruce | Christensen, Bruce M. | Collins, Frank H. | Cornel, Anthony | Dimopoulos, George | Hannick, Linda I. | Higgs, Stephen | Lanzaro, Gregory C. | Lawson, Daniel | Lee, Norman H. | Muskavitch, Marc A. T. | Raikhel, Alexander S. | Atkinson, Peter W.
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;330(6000):86-88.
Culex quinquefasciatus (the Southern house mosquito) is an important mosquito vector of viruses such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis virus as well of nematodes that cause lymphatic filariasis. It is one species within the Culex pipiens species complex and enjoys a distribution throughout tropical and temperate climates of the world. The ability of C. quinquefasciatus to take blood meals from birds, livestock and humans contributes to its ability to vector pathogens between species. We describe the genomic sequence of C. quinquefasciatus, its repertoire of 18,883 protein-coding genes is 22% larger than Ae. aegypti and 52% larger than An. gambiae with multiple gene family expansions including olfactory and gustatory receptors, salivary gland genes, and genes associated with xenobiotic detoxification.
PMCID: PMC3740384  PMID: 20929810

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