miRNA Genes of an Invasive Vector Mosquito, Aedes albopictus
James, A. A.
Tu, Zhijian Jake
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Aedes albopictus, a vector of Dengue and Chikungunya viruses, is a robust invasive species in both tropical and temperate environments. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate gene expression and biological processes including embryonic development, innate immunity and infection. While a number of miRNAs have been discovered in some mosquitoes, no comprehensive effort has been made to characterize them from different developmental stages from a single species. Systematic analysis of miRNAs in Ae. albopictus will improve our understanding of its basic biology and inform novel strategies to prevent virus transmission. Between 10–14 million Illumina sequencing reads per sample were obtained from embryos, larvae, pupae, adult males, sugar-fed and blood-fed adult females. A total of 119 miRNA genes represented by 215 miRNA or miRNA star (miRNA*) sequences were identified, 15 of which are novel. Eleven, two, and two of the newly-discovered miRNA genes appear specific to Aedes, Culicinae, and Culicidae, respectively. A number of miRNAs accumulate predominantly in one or two developmental stages and the large number that showed differences in abundance following a blood meal likely are important in blood-induced mosquito biology. Gene Ontology (GO) analysis of the targets of all Ae. albopictus miRNAs provides a useful starting point for the study of their functions in mosquitoes. This study is the first systematic analysis of miRNAs based on deep-sequencing of small RNA samples of all developmental stages of a mosquito species. A number of miRNAs are related to specific physiological states, most notably, pre- and post-blood feeding. The distribution of lineagespecific miRNAs is consistent with mosquito phylogeny and the presence of a number of Aedes-specific miRNAs likely reflects the divergence between the Aedes and Culex genera.