Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deciphering The Genetic Basis Of The Mosquito’s Senses

Date:
October 4, 2002
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified the genes that code for a special class of proteins that plays a critical role in almost every aspect of the mosquito's life cycle, including its ability to see, taste, touch, and smell.

The mosquito Anopheles gambiae is something of a gourmet. It feeds almost exclusively on human blood. Its preference for humans and its ability to seek them out, in fact, are what makes the tiny insect such a deadly "vector" for the spread of malaria, a disease that causes millions of deaths annually.

Now a team of researchers from Vanderbilt University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified the genes that code for a special class of proteins that plays a critical role in almost every aspect of the insect's life cycle, including its ability to see, taste, touch, and smell.

"This is an important step forward in our ability to first understand the mosquitos' host preference and tracking system and then to interfere with it in a way that can save human lives in an economically feasible and environmentally benign fashion," says Laurence J. Zwiebel, assistant professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University who led the study.

Writing in the October 4 issue of the journal Science, Zwiebel and his colleagues report the identification of a total of 276 genes in the Anopheles gambiae genome that provide the blueprints for proteins called G-protein-coupled receptors (GFCRs) that are instrumental elements in the mosquito's sensory systems, including those that it uses to find human prey.

The paper is part of a special issue of Science that reports the sequencing of the entire Anopheles genome. Concurrently, the journal Nature is announcing the sequencing of the genome of Plasmodium falciparum, the single-cell parasite carried by Anopheles that causes malaria. These two achievements are providing the impetus for a major new scientific assault on malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. In particular, Zwiebel and his colleagues report finding 79 genes that appear to be involved in the mosquitoes' sense of smell and 72 involved in its sense of taste. Previous studies have shown that both of these chemosensory senses play a major role in the mosquitos' strong preference for human hosts.

The identity of many of the genes was deduced from their predicted structural characteristics as well as their similarity to genes found in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. "In addition, we found a large number of genes that are unique to the mosquito and so could very well be involved in mosquito-specific behaviors such as blood feeding, host preference and tracking," says Zwiebel.

In addition to the strong preference for human blood meals that is characteristic of A. gambiae, there are many closely related mosquito species that seek out other animals, including dogs, cats, birds, sheep, horses and cows, with similar single-minded tenacity.

"If we can identify the receptors that mosquitoes use to smell humans, we should be able to design novel repellants and attractants that can substantially reduce the incidence of malaria, West Nile encephalitis, dengue and yellow fevers and other mosquito-born diseases," Zwiebel says.

This goal appears to be achievable because the mosquito's olfactory system is substantially simpler than that of mammals. Humans have about 800 types of olfactory receptors while mice have about 1,200 compared with only 79 for the mosquito. In fact, an outstanding question is how insects like mosquitos can detect such a large range of different chemical signals with such a limited number of receptor types.

"We have a theory about how they do this that we are anxious to test," says Zwiebel.

Co-authors of the paper with Zwiebel are A. Nicole Fox and R. Jason Pitts from Vanderbilt; Crystal A. Hall, Perciliz L. Tan, Mathew A. Chrystal and Frank H. Collins from Notre Dame; Lauren B. Kent and High M. Robertson from Urbana-Champaign; and Anibal Cravchik from Celera Diagnostics.

The research was funded by the United Nations Development Program/World Bank/World Health Organization Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Celera and the Anopheles gambiae Genome Consortium. For more news about campus research, visit Exploration, Vanderbilt's online research magazine at http://exploration.vanderbilt.edu


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University. "Deciphering The Genetic Basis Of The Mosquito’s Senses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021004065314.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2002, October 4). Deciphering The Genetic Basis Of The Mosquito’s Senses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021004065314.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Deciphering The Genetic Basis Of The Mosquito’s Senses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021004065314.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins