Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Progress In Probing The Mosquito's Sense Of Smell

Date:
January 15, 2004
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
Today, we know a little bit more about one of mankind’s deadliest enemies, the mosquito. Scientists have taken an important step toward understanding the mosquito’s sense of smell, an avenue of research that may lead to better ways to repel the deadly insect.

Today, we know a little bit more about one of mankind’s deadliest enemies, the mosquito. Scientists have taken an important step toward understanding the mosquito’s sense of smell, an avenue of research that may lead to better ways to repel the deadly insect.

Related Articles


In a joint effort reported in the Jan. 15 issue of the journal Nature, researchers at Vanderbilt and Yale universities have verified that the antennae of female Anopheles mosquitoes that prey on humans contain receptors that respond to one of the chemical compounds found in human sweat.

“This validates our hypothesis that the olfactory system of mosquitoes—and other insects—consists of an array of different receptors, each of which responds to a very narrow range of odorants,” says Laurence J. Zwiebel, associate professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt, who participated in the study. His co-authors were Vanderbilt graduate student A. Nicole Fox along with Yale colleagues Elissa A. Halem, a graduate student, and professor John R. Carlson.

Confirmation of this hypothesis means that it should be possible to identify the specific human odorants and the protein receptors that allow female mosquitoes to identify their hosts when they need blood to satisfy their reproductive needs. In addition to cataloging the human odorants that attract mosquitoes, it also will allow the researchers to go further and search for additional chemicals that either attract or repel these highly selective insects.

“Looking at attractants is only half of the picture. There is no evidence that mosquitoes find some human odorants repellent, but we’re interested in exploring this,” says Zwiebel. Such discoveries might lead to new and more effective repellants that could play a major role in reducing the death toll from diseases spread by mosquitoes, including malaria, encephalitis, West Nile, dengue, hemorrhagic and yellow fevers.

Previous studies have shown that human sweat contains about 350 different aromatic compounds, but not much research has been done on them. For example, researchers do not know much about the individual variations in these odorants, not even how greatly the odorants of men and women differ. However, recent data from researchers in the Netherlands suggests that mosquitoes use a blend of many odorants in targeting prey. “This is a very complex system,” Zwiebel observes.

The Nature paper reports another important advance. The researchers were able to get a mosquito olfactory gene to work in Drosophila, the fruit fly that has become the “white lab rat” of genetic research. This provides the researchers with a wealth of tools they can use to explore the nature of the mosquito’s olfactory system at the genetic and molecular level.

The researchers created fruit flies with Anopheles’ olfactory genes and then tested their sensitivity to different compounds found in human sweat. They identified one particular compound, 4-methylphenol, strongly activated an odorant receptor that is expressed in female mosquitoes but not in males.

Previous studies had shown that the production of this protein is suppressed in female mosquitoes immediately following a blood meal when they are no longer responsive to human odors. The new finding strengthens the argument that female Anopheles use 4-methylphenol to seek out hosts.

The fact that the mosquito gene works properly in the fruit fly has another significant ramification. It means that the fundamental nature of the olfactory system in other insects must be extremely similar to that of the mosquito. “As a result, our research should have a direct bearing not only on the mosquito, but also on other insects that carry disease and act as agricultural pests,” Zwiebel says.

For more news about Vanderbilt research, visit Exploration, Vanderbilt’s online research magazine, at www.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. "Progress In Probing The Mosquito's Sense Of Smell." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/01/040115080313.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2004, January 15). Progress In Probing The Mosquito's Sense Of Smell. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/01/040115080313.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Progress In Probing The Mosquito's Sense Of Smell." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/01/040115080313.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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