American researchers have discovered a new protein that may help control disease-spreading mosquitoes.
The study conducted by Cornell scientists has appeared in the March 4, 2010 issue of the American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.
The researchers identified a protein from the renal tubules of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread the dengue fever causing virus. This particular protein appears to be involved in promoting urination as the mosquitoes feed on blood. When mosquitoes consume and process blood meals, they must urinate to prevent fluid and salt overloads that can kill them.
Moreover, "they have to undergo rapid urination when feeding, or they can't fly away," according to Peter Piermarini, the paper's lead author and a postdoctoral research associate in the lab of Klaus Beyenbach, a professor of biomedical sciences in Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine and the paper's senior author.
Piermarini said: "Too much weight will impair the mosquito's flight performance, like an aircraft with too much payload. [If they get too heavy,] they may become more susceptible to being swatted by their host or eaten by a predator."
In lab experiments, Piermarini, Beyenbach and their team demonstrated that blocking the protein's function in the renal tubules with a drug reverses the enhanced rates of urination that would occur during blood feeding.
Piermarini said: "Thus, blocking the function of this protein in natural populations of mosquitoes may limit their ability to survive the physiological stresses of a blood meal and to further transmit viruses."