Elimination of malaria depends on mastering transmission and understanding the biological basis of Plasmodium infection in the vector. The first mosquito organ to interact with the parasite is the midgut and its transcriptomic characterization during infection can reveal effective antiplasmodial responses able to limit the survival of the parasite. The vector response to Plasmodium vivax is not fully characterized, and its specificities when compared with other malaria parasites can be of fundamental interest for specific control measures.
Experimental infections were performed using a membrane-feeding device. Three groups were used: P. vivax-blood-fed, blood-fed on inactivated gametocytes, and unfed mosquitoes. Twenty-four hours after feeding, the mosquitoes were dissected and the midgut collected for transcriptomic analysis using RNAseq. Nine cDNA libraries were generated and sequenced on an Illumina HiSeq2500. Readings were checked for quality control and analysed using the Trinity platform for de novo transcriptome assembly. Transcript quantification was performed and the transcriptome was functionally annotated. Differential expression gene analysis was carried out. The role of the identified mechanisms was further explored using functional approaches.
Forty-nine genes were identified as being differentially expressed with P. vivax infection: 34 were upregulated and 15 were downregulated. Half of the P. vivax-related differentially expressed genes could be related to autophagy; therefore, the effect of the known inhibitor (wortmannin) and activator (spermidine) was tested on the infection outcome. Autophagic activation significantly reduced the intensity and prevalence of infection. This was associated with transcription alterations of the autophagy regulating genes Beclin, DRAM and Apg8.
Our data indicate that P. vivax invasion of An. aquasalis midgut epithelium triggers an autophagic response and its activation reduces infection. This suggests a novel mechanism that mosquitoes can use to fight Plasmodium infection.
- Anopheles mosquitoes
- Host parasite interactions
- Malaria control
- Malaria transmission
- Plasmodium vivax
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being