Genes that are turned on during infection in a type of mosquito that is not only a pest, but transmits disease-causing pathogens have been examined by researchers.
Iowa State University researcher Lyric Bartholomay along with colleagues from around the world infected the common southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) with various pathogens to see which mosquito genes are activated in response to the infection.
The southern house mosquito is the third of the three most important mosquito disease carriers to have its genome sequenced.
The first was an African mosquito (Anopheles gambiae) and the second was a tropical mosquito (Aedes aegypti).
In the research, mosquitoes were infected with viruses, worms and bacteria. The genes of the mosquitoes were monitored to see which changed during the response to infection and therefore could ward off disease.
"What we're trying to do is broaden our understanding of infection response genes beyond those that we expect to be there," said Bartholomay.
"We took a two-pronged approach to understanding infection responses.
"First, we scoured the genome sequence looking for those immunity genes that the mosquitoes can use to respond to an infection. Then, we looked at what genes comprise broad spectrum and specific immune responses.
"We then took it one step further and compared the infection responses in Culex quinquefasciatus to similar infections in Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae," she said.
Bartholomay noted that the functions of many of the genes revealed in this analysis are still unknown, but as more is discovered about the functions of the genes, it could provide the first steps to controlling mosquito-borne diseases.
The paper was published in the journal Science.