Mosquito genes unlock malaria secrets
Strasbourg – By studying mosquito genomes, researchers have identified differences in the expression of a single gene that determines whether or not a mosquito can transmit malaria parasites. This discovery provides a genetic basis for the variability seen in the vector capacity of different mosquito populations - some are able to kill the malaria parasites themselves, while others become unwitting transmitters. Stephanie Blandin from INSERM in Strasbourg and co-workers from Munich, Liverpool and Copenhagen combined RNA interference studies with genome-wide mapping to show that a single gene in mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites express the TEP1 protein differently within populations, and that those differences determine whether or not the malaria parasites will be killed by the mosquito’s own immune responses or be transmitted to a new host. The researchers observed various expression levels of the TEP1 gene in mosquitoes and noted how they affected the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei. Their results indicate that TEP1 expression – and the action of any additional genes that influence the TEP1 protein – determines the fate of the rodent malaria parasites in mosquitoes. These findings could offer new tools for controlling malaria transmission in the future.