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1.  Biodistribution and Trafficking of Hydrogel Nanoparticles in Adult Mosquitoes 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(5):e0003745.
Nanotechnology offers great potential for molecular genetic investigations and potential control of medically important arthropods. Major advances have been made in mammalian systems to define nanoparticle (NP) characteristics that condition trafficking and biodistribution of NPs in the host. Such information is critical for effective delivery of therapeutics and molecules to cells and organs, but little is known about biodistribution of NPs in mosquitoes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
PRINT technology was used to construct a library of fluorescently labeled hydrogel NPs of defined size, shape, and surface charge. The biodistribution (organ, tissue, and cell tropisms and trafficking kinetics) of positively and negatively charged 200 nm x 200 nm, 80 nm x 320 nm, and 80 nm x 5000 nm NPs was determined in adult Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes as a function of the route of challenge (ingestion, injection or contact) using whole body imaging and fluorescence microscopy. Mosquitoes readily ingested NPs in sugar solution. Whole body fluorescence imaging revealed substantial NP accumulation (load) in the alimentary tracts of the adult mosquitoes, with the greatest loads in the diverticula, cardia and foregut. Positively and negatively charged NPs differed in their biodistribution and trafficking. Following oral challenge, negatively charged NPs transited the alimentary tract more rapidly than positively charged NPs. Following contact challenge, negatively charged NPs trafficked more efficiently in alimentary tract tissues. Following parenteral challenge, positively and negatively charged NPs differed in tissue tropisms and trafficking in the hemocoel. Injected NPs were also detected in cardia/foregut, suggesting trafficking of NPs from the hemocoel into the alimentary tract.
Herein we have developed a tool box of NPs with the biodistribution and tissue tropism characteristics for gene structure/function studies and for delivery of vector lethal cargoes for mosquito control.
Author Summary
Emerging insecticide resistance in disease vectors is of great public health concern. Discovery of new targets and novel strategies for insecticidal interventions to control vector borne diseases is a public health imperative. Nanotechnology offers great potential for molecular genetic investigations and for delivery of effector molecules for control of disease vectors. We have developed a tool box of hydrogel nanoparticles (NPs) with the biodistribution and tissue tropism characteristics for gene structure/function studies and for delivery of vector lethal cargoes to adult mosquitoes. Nanotechnology will likely be useful for molecular investigations and potential control of the arthropod vectors of other neglected tropical diseases.
PMCID: PMC4440717  PMID: 25996505
2.  Vector Competence in West African Aedes aegypti Is Flavivirus Species and Genotype Dependent 
Vector competence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes is a quantitative genetic trait that varies among geographic locations and among different flavivirus species and genotypes within species. The subspecies Ae. aegypti formosus, found mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, is considered to be refractory to both dengue (DENV) and yellow fever viruses (YFV) compared to the more globally distributed Ae. aegypti aegypti. Within Senegal, vector competence varies with collection site and DENV-2 viral isolate, but knowledge about the interaction of West African Ae. aegypti with different flaviviruses is lacking. The current study utilizes low passage isolates of dengue-2 (DENV-2-75505 sylvatic genotype) and yellow fever (YFV BA-55 -West African Genotype I, or YFV DAK 1279-West African Genotype II) from West Africa and field derived Ae. aegypti collected throughout Senegal to determine whether vector competence is flavivirus or virus genotype dependent.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Eight collections of 20–30 mosquitoes from different sites were fed a bloodmeal containing either DENV-2 or either isolate of YFV. Midgut and disseminated infection phenotypes were determined 14 days post infection. Collections varied significantly in the rate and intensity of midgut and disseminated infection among the three viruses.
Overall, vector competence was dependent upon both viral and vector strains. Importantly, contrary to previous studies, sylvatic collections of Ae. aegypti showed high levels of disseminated infection for local isolates of both DENV-2 and YFV.
Author Summary
Vector competence is defined as the intrinsic permissiveness of an arthropod vector for infection, dissemination, and transmission of a pathogen. The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the main vector for dengue and yellow fever viruses worldwide and is divided into two subspecies: Ae. aegypti aegypti and Ae. aegypti formosus. Aedes aegypti aegypti is found globally in tropical and subtropical regions, while Ae. aegypti formosus is mainly restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. Aedes aegypti formosus is considered to be a poor vector for both yellow fever and dengue, but some of these original studies with yellow fever were performed with highly passaged viral isolates collected at different locations than the mosquitoes. Viral genetics is an important determinant of vector competence and virus/mosquito genetic specificity exists in Ae. aegypti aegypti. We compared the vector competence of multiple collections of Ae. aegypti from throughout Senegal for both yellow fever and dengue viruses to demonstrate that vector competence in Ae. aegypti formosus is dependent on viral genotype. In contrast to earlier claims, populations of Ae. aegypti in West Africa can be competent vectors of flaviviruses.
PMCID: PMC4183443  PMID: 25275366
3.  Fitness Impact and Stability of a Transgene Conferring Resistance to Dengue-2 Virus following Introgression into a Genetically Diverse Aedes aegypti Strain 
In 2006, we reported a mariner (Mos1)-transformed Aedes aegypti line, Carb77, which was highly resistant to dengue-2 virus (DENV2). Carb77 mosquitoes expressed a DENV2-specific inverted-repeat (IR) RNA in midgut epithelial cells after ingesting an infectious bloodmeal. The IR-RNA formed double-stranded DENV2-derived RNA, initiating an intracellular antiviral RNA interference (RNAi) response. However, Carb77 mosquitoes stopped expressing the IR-RNA after 17 generations in culture and lost their DENV2-refractory phenotype. In the current study, we generated new transgenic lines having the identical transgene as Carb77. One of these lines, Carb109M, has been genetically stable and refractory to DENV2 for >33 generations. Southern blot analysis identified two transgene integration sites in Carb109M. Northern blot analysis detected abundant, transient expression of the IR-RNA 24 h after a bloodmeal. Carb109M mosquitoes were refractory to different DENV2 genotypes but not to other DENV serotypes. To further test fitness and stability, we introgressed the Carb109M transgene into a genetically diverse laboratory strain (GDLS) by backcrossing for five generations and selecting individuals expressing the transgene's EGFP marker in each generation. Comparison of transgene stability in replicate backcross 5 (BC5) lines versus BC1 control lines demonstrated that backcrossing dramatically increased transgene stability. We subjected six BC5 lines to five generations of selection based on EGFP marker expression to increase the frequency of the transgene prior to final family selection. Comparison of the observed transgene frequencies in the six replicate lines relative to expectations from Fisher's selection model demonstrated lingering fitness costs associated with either the transgene or linked deleterious genes. Although minimal fitness loss (relative to GDLS) was manifest in the final family selection stage, we were able to select homozygotes for the transgene in one family, Carb109M/GDLS.BC5.HZ. This family has been genetically stable and DENV2 refractory for multiple generations. Carb109M/GDLS.BC5.HZ represents an important line for testing proof-of-principle vector population replacement.
Author Summary
Expression of a DENV2 sequence-derived IR RNA in the mosquito midgut initiates an antiviral intracellular RNAi response that efficiently blocks DENV2 infection and profoundly impairs vector competence for that virus in Aedes aegypti. DENV2-specific IR RNA expression in the Carb109M strain has maintained the RNAi-based, refractory phenotype for 33 generations in laboratory culture. The two transgene integration sites were stable after multiple generations and following introgression into a genetically-diverse (GDLS) Ae. aegypti population. Introgression of the transgene into the GDLS genetic background changed GDLS from a DENV2 susceptible phenotype to a DENV2 refractory phenotype. The DENV2 refractory homozygous line, Carb109M/GDLS.BC5.HZ, exhibits (relative to GDLS) minimal fitness loss associated with the transgene. This line could be a potential candidate for proof-of-principle field studies.
PMCID: PMC4014415  PMID: 24810399
4.  Subgenomic Reporter RNA System for Detection of Alphavirus Infection in Mosquitoes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84930.
Current methods for detecting real-time alphavirus (Family Togaviridae) infection in mosquitoes require the use of recombinant viruses engineered to express a visibly detectable reporter protein. These altered viruses expressing fluorescent proteins, usually from a duplicated viral subgenomic reporter, are effective at marking infection but tend to be attenuated due to the modification of the genome. Additionally, field strains of viruses cannot be visualized using this approach unless infectious clones can be developed to insert a reporter protein. To circumvent these issues, we have developed an insect cell-based system for detecting wild-type sindbis virus infection that uses a virus inducible promoter to express a fluorescent reporter gene only upon active virus infection. We have developed an insect expression system that produces sindbis virus minigenomes containing a subgenomic promoter sequence, which produces a translatable RNA species only when infectious virus is present and providing viral replication proteins. This subgenomic reporter RNA system is able to detect wild-type Sindbis infection in cultured mosquito cells. The detection system is relatively species specific and only detects closely related viruses, but can detect low levels of alphavirus specific replication early during infection. A chikungunya virus detection system was also developed that specifically detects chikungunya virus infection. Transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquito families were established that constitutively express the sindbis virus reporter RNA and were found to only express fluorescent proteins during virus infection. This virus inducible reporter system demonstrates a novel approach for detecting non-recombinant virus infection in mosquito cell culture and in live transgenic mosquitoes.
PMCID: PMC3868651  PMID: 24367703
5.  Comparison of transgene expression in Aedes aegypti generated by mariner Mos1 transposition and ΦC31 site-directed recombination 
Insect molecular biology  2011;20(5):587-598.
Transgenic mosquitoes generated by transposable elements (TE) often poorly express transgenes due to position effects. To avoid these effects, the ΦC31 site-directed recombination system was used to insert transgenes into a locus favorable for gene expression in Aedes aegypti. We describe phenotypes of mariner Mos1 TE and ΦC31 transgenic mosquitoes expressing the EGFP reporter in midguts of bloodfed females. Mosquitoes of nine TE-generated lines (estimated transformation frequency (TF): 9.3%) clearly expressed the eye-specific selection marker but only 2/9 lines robustly expressed the EGFP reporter. The piggyBac TE-generated ΦC31 docking strain attP26 supported recombination with attB site containing donors at an estimated TF of 1.7–4.9%. Using a codon-optimized ΦC31 integrase mutant instead of the ‘wild-type’ enzyme did not affect TF. Site-directed recombination of line attP26 with an attB-containing donor expressing EGFP from the Ae. aegypti carboxypeptidase promoter produced one transgenic line with bloodfed females expressing the reporter in midgut tissue. Docking strain attP26 also supported robust expression of Flock House virus B2 from the Ae. aegypti poly-ubiquitin promoter. Our data confirm that eye-specific selection marker expression alone is not a reliable indicator for robust gene-of-interest expression in Ae. aegypti and that the ΦC31 system can ensure predictable transgene expression in this mosquito species.
PMCID: PMC3556457  PMID: 21699593
Aedes aegypti; transposable element; ΦC31; reporter gene; transgenic
6.  The Salivary Gland Transcriptome of the Eastern Tree Hole Mosquito, Ochlerotatus triseriatus 
Journal of Medical Entomology  2010;47(3):376-386.
Saliva of blood-sucking arthropods contains a complex mixture of peptides that affect their host’s hemostasis, inflammation, and immunity. These activities can also modify the site of pathogen delivery and increase disease transmission. Saliva also induces hosts to mount an antisaliva immune response that can lead to skin allergies or even anaphylaxis. Accordingly, knowledge of the salivary repertoire, or sialome, of a mosquito is useful to provide a knowledge platform to mine for novel pharmacological activities, to develop novel vaccine targets for vector-borne diseases, and to develop epidemiological markers of vector exposure and candidate desensitization vaccines. The mosquito Ochlerotatus triseriatus is a vector of La Crosse virus and produces allergy in humans. In this work, a total of 1,575 clones randomly selected from an adult female O. triseriatus salivary gland cDNA library was sequenced and used to assemble a database that yielded 731 clusters of related sequences, 560 of which were singletons. Primer extension experiments were performed in selected clones to further extend sequence coverage, allowing for the identification of 159 protein sequences, 66 of which code for putative secreted proteins. Supplemental spreadsheets containing these data are available at and
PMCID: PMC3394432  PMID: 20496585
mosquito; salivary gland; sialome; transcriptome; La Crosse virus
7.  Transgene-mediated suppression of dengue viruses in the salivary glands of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti 
Insect molecular biology  2010;19(6):753-763.
Controlled sex-, stage- and tissue-specific expression of anti-pathogen effector molecules is important for genetic engineering strategies to control mosquito-borne diseases. Adult female salivary glands are involved in pathogen transmission to human hosts and are target sites for expression of anti-pathogen effector molecules. The Aedes aegypti 30K a and 30K b genes are expressed exclusively in adult female salivary glands and are transcribed divergently from start sites separated by 263 nucleotides. The intergenic, 5’- and 3’-end untranslated regions of both genes are sufficient to express simultaneously two different transgene products in the distal-lateral lobes of the female salivary glands. An anti-dengue effector gene, Mnp, driven by the 30K b promoter, expresses an inverted-repeat RNA with sequences derived from the premembrane protein-encoding region of the dengue virus serotype 2 genome and reduces significantly the prevalence and mean intensities of viral infection in mosquito salivary glands and saliva.
PMCID: PMC2976824  PMID: 20738425
Dengue; mosquito; salivary glands; promoter; transgenesis; Aedes aegypti
8.  The RNA interference pathway affects midgut infection- and escape barriers for Sindbis virus in Aedes aegypti 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:130.
The RNA interference (RNAi) pathway acts as an innate antiviral immune response in Aedes aegypti, modulating arbovirus infection of mosquitoes. Sindbis virus (SINV; family: Togaviridae, genus: Alphavirus) is an arbovirus that infects Ae. aegypti in the laboratory. SINV strain TR339 encounters a midgut escape barrier (MEB) during infection of Ae. aegypti. The nature of this barrier is not well understood. To investigate the role of the midgut as the central organ determining vector competence for arboviruses, we generated transgenic mosquitoes in which the RNAi pathway was impaired in midgut tissue of bloodfed females. We used these mosquitoes to reveal effects of RNAi impairment in the midgut on SINV replication, midgut infection and dissemination efficiencies, and mosquito longevity.
As a novel tool for studying arbovirus-mosquito interactions, we engineered a transgenic mosquito line with an impaired RNAi pathway in the midgut of bloodfed females by silencing expression of the Aa-dcr2 gene. In midgut tissue of the transgenic Carb/dcr16 line, Aa-dcr2 expression was reduced ~50% between 1-7 days post-bloodmeal (pbm) when compared to the recipient mosquito strain. After infection with SINV-TR339EGFP, Aa-dcr2 expression levels were enhanced in both mosquito strains. In the RNAi pathway impaired mosquito strain SINV titers and midgut infection rates were significantly higher at 7 days pbm. There was also a strong tendency for increased virus dissemination rates among the transgenic mosquitoes. Between 7-14 days pbm, SINV was diminished in midgut tissue of the transgenic mosquitoes. Transgenic impairment of the RNAi pathway and/or SINV infection did not affect longevity of the mosquitoes.
We showed that RNAi impaired transgenic mosquitoes are a useful tool for studying arbovirus-mosquito interactions at the molecular level. Following ingestion by Ae. aegypti, the recombinant SINV-TR339EGFP was confronted with both MEB and a midgut infection barrier (MIB). Impairment of the RNAi pathway in the midgut strongly reduced both midgut barriers for the virus. This confirms that the endogenous RNAi pathway of Ae. aegypti modulates vector competence for SINV in the midgut. The RNAi pathway acts as a gatekeeper to the incoming virus by affecting infection rate of the midgut, intensity of infection, and dissemination from the midgut to secondary tissues.
PMCID: PMC2877022  PMID: 20426860
9.  An insight into the sialotranscriptome of the West Nile mosquito vector, Culex tarsalis 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:51.
Saliva of adult female mosquitoes help sugar and blood feeding by providing enzymes and polypeptides that help sugar digestion, control microbial growth and counteract their vertebrate host hemostasis and inflammation. Mosquito saliva also potentiates the transmission of vector borne pathogens, including arboviruses. Culex tarsalis is a bird feeding mosquito vector of West Nile Virus closely related to C. quinquefasciatus, a mosquito relatively recently adapted to feed on humans, and the only mosquito of the genus Culex to have its sialotranscriptome so far described.
A total of 1,753 clones randomly selected from an adult female C. tarsalis salivary glands (SG) cDNA library were sequenced and used to assemble a database that yielded 809 clusters of related sequences, 675 of which were singletons. Primer extension experiments were performed in selected clones to further extend sequence coverage, allowing for the identification of 283 protein sequences, 80 of which code for putative secreted proteins.
Comparison of the C. tarsalis sialotranscriptome with that of C. quinquefasciatus reveals accelerated evolution of salivary proteins as compared to housekeeping proteins. The average amino acid identity among salivary proteins is 70.1%, while that for housekeeping proteins is 91.2% (P < 0.05), and the codon volatility of secreted proteins is significantly higher than those of housekeeping proteins. Several protein families previously found exclusive of mosquitoes, including only in the Aedes genus have been identified in C. tarsalis. Interestingly, a protein family so far unique to C. quinquefasciatus, with 30 genes, is also found in C. tarsalis, indicating it was not a specific C. quinquefasciatus acquisition in its evolution to optimize mammal blood feeding.
PMCID: PMC2823692  PMID: 20089177
10.  RNA Silencing of Dengue Virus Type 2 Replication in Transformed C6/36 Mosquito Cells Transcribing an Inverted-Repeat RNA Derived from the Virus Genome 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(24):12925-12933.
Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) initiates cellular posttranscriptional responses that are collectively called RNA silencing in a number of different organisms, including plants, nematodes, and fruit flies. In plants, RNA silencing has been associated with protection from virus infection. In this study, we demonstrate that dsRNA-mediated interference also can act as a viral defense mechanism in mosquito cells. C6/36 (Aedes albopictus) cells were stably transformed with a plasmid designed to transcribe an inverted-repeat RNA (irRNA) derived from the genome of dengue virus type 2 (DEN-2) capable of forming dsRNA. Clonal cell lines were selected with an antibiotic resistance marker and challenged with DEN-2. The cell lines were classified as either susceptible or resistant to virus replication, based on the percentage of cells expressing DEN-2 envelope (E) antigen 7 days after challenge. Eight out of 18 (44%) cell lines designed to express irRNA were resistant to DEN-2 challenge, with more than 95% of the cells showing no DEN-2 antigen accumulation. One of the DEN-2-resistant cell lines, FB 9.1, was further characterized. DEN-2 genome RNA failed to accumulate in FB 9.1 cells after challenge. Northern blot hybridization detected transcripts containing transgene sequences of both sense and antisense polarity, suggesting that DEN-2-specific dsRNA was present in the cells. In addition, a class of small RNAs 21 to 25 nucleotides in length was detected that specifically hybridized to labeled sense or antisense DEN-2 RNA derived from the target region of the genome. These observations were consistent with RNA silencing as the mechanism of resistance to DEN-2 in transformed mosquito cells.
PMCID: PMC136701  PMID: 12438618

Results 1-10 (10)