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May 9, 2019

Egg yolk precursor protein regulates mosquitoes’ attraction to humans

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Feeding mosquitoes sugar makes them less attracted to humans, a response that is regulated by the protein vitellogenin, according to a study publishing May 9 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Jessica Dittmer, Paolo Gabrieli and colleagues at the Università degli Studi di Pavia in Italy.

Female mosquitoes must feed on blood to provide energy and nutrients for their developing eggs, but they can also supplement their diet with sugars by drinking plant nectar or sap. The team fed young female tiger mosquitos (Aedes albopictus) sugar solutions, and found it reduced their attraction to . Female energy levels constantly increase after feeding sugars, and they are not related to the insects’ motivation to find a host.

Transcriptome sequencing revealed a wave of gene expression changes associated with this reduction in host-seeking behaviour, which affected at least 23 genes including the vitellogenin gene Vg-2—known to play a role in ovary development. RNA interference experiments to knockdown the Vg-2 gene expression restored the mosquitos’ attraction to humans, confirming the gene’s key role in regulating feeding behaviour.

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