The role of bacteria in mosquito development: a comparative study of distantly related species

Molly Hancuh, a student from University of Minnesota-Morris, worked with Bret Boyd and Ruby Harrison in the lab of Dr. Mike Strand to examine the role of bacteria in mosquito larval development.

Abstract: The digestive tract of a mosquito is home to bacterial community that is essential for normal development (1). In the larval stages, bacteria stimulate molting and growth (1). Some members of the larval gut community persist into the adult mosquito where they influence reproduction and ability to vector pathogens (2,3). Previous studies on the role of gut- bacteria in development have focused on the genus Aedes, including Aedes aegypti, which transmits the pathogens that cause Dengue fever and Zika virus syndrome. It is unknown if findings from Aedes species apply to all mosquitoes. Here, we address two important findings from Aedes in distantly related genus Anopheles by studying the malaria vectors An. gambiae and An. stephensi. First, we asked if Anopheles need bacteria to develop and if so, can we rescue development with individual bacterial species? Second, we assessed whether bacterial abundance in the guts of adult Ae. aegypti and An. gambiae differ before and after females blood feed. Like Ae. aegpyti, we find that bacteria free larvae cannot develop, however unlike Ae. aegypti some bacterial species cannot fully rescue larval development in Anopheles. Additionally the results were not equivocal between An. gambiae and An. stephensi. In adult mosquitoes, the bacterial community in the digestive tracts of Ae. aegypti and An. gambiae also responded differently to blood feeding. Collectively we find that that are commonalities between Aedes and Anopheles, however there were significant differences as well.

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