Mosquito-borne diseases are responsible for several million human deaths annually around the world. One approach to controlling mosquito populations is to disrupt molecular processes or antagonize novel metabolic targets required for the production of viable eggs. To this end, University of Arizona team focused their efforts on identifying proteins required for completion of embryonic development that are mosquito selective and represent potential targets for vector control.
There are millions of cases of mosquito-borne viral diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever around the world. In India alone, mosquitoes of the genus Aedes are responsible for spreading diseases that kill thousands a year.
Roger Miesfeld, team lead of the research study, from UA along with other members performed bioinformatic analyses to identify putative protein-coding sequences that are specific to mosquito genomes. Systematic RNA interference (RNAi) screening of 40 mosquito-specific genes was performed by injecting double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) into female Aedes aegyptimosquitoes. This experimental approach led to the identification of eggshell organizing factor 1 (EOF1, AAEL012336), which plays an essential role in the formation and melanization of the eggshell.
The study has been published in PLOS Biology researchers have conceived a potential new route to an insecticide.
“It’s really provided a hook to understanding how mosquito eggshells are put together, which is really a critical development,” Marten Edwards, a professor at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, told The Wire.
“Even the most professional and well-resourced mosquito control agencies are unable” to sufficiently control and prevent “epidemic transmission of dengue, Zika, etc. in endemic areas,” Luke Alphey, a professor at the Pirbright Institute, Surrey, told The Wire. And “Aedes aegypti is the key mosquito vector of these and other mosquito-borne viral diseases.”
The team discovered that a certain protein, which they aptly named Eggshell Organizing Factor 1 (EOF-1), is critical to the development of eggshells in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. When they blocked the activity of this protein, it resulted in nearly 100 percent of females laying nonviable eggs due to a faulty eggshell layer.
The team has taken a step to bring this discovery to the field where it is needed most, filing a provisional patent on the discovery through the UA’s technology transfer office.