Chromosomal evolution in mosquitoes - vectors of diseases

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Virginia Tech

The World Health Organization estimates that vector-borne diseases account for 17% of the global burden of all infectious diseases and has identified the mosquito as the most dangerous of all disease-transmitting insects, being responsible for several million deaths and hundreds of millions of cases each year. The study of mosquito genomics provides a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in every aspect of vector biology, such as sex determination, host-parasite interaction, ecology, feeding behavior, immunity and evolutionary trends and can be used for the development of new strategies for vector control.

We developed the first map of the mitotic chromosomes of the major vector for West Nile fever and lymphatic filariasis, Culex quinquefasciatus. The map was then successfully utilized for mapping of approximately 90% of available genetic markers to their precise positions on the chromosomes. Idiograms were integrated with 140 genetic supercontigs representing 26.5% of the genome. A linear regression analysis demonstrated good overall correlation between the positioning of markers on physical and genetic linkage maps. This will improve gene annotation and help in distinguishing potential haplotype scaffolds and regions of segmental duplications. It will also facilitate identification of epidemiologically important genes that can be used as targets for the vector control and provide a better framework for comparative genomics that will help understanding of the evolution of epidemiologically important traits.

In another study, we confirmed the presence of the newly described species, Anopheles daciae, in regions of Russia using molecular data. Although sympatric with its sibling species, Anopheles messeae, five nucleotide substitutions in the internal transcribed spacer 2 of ribosomal DNA can be used to distinguish the morphologically similar species. Chromosome rearrangements have a significant impact on mosquito adaptation and speciation. Using sequencing data in combination with karyotyping, we demonstrated that significant differences in inversion frequencies distinguish An. messeae from An. daciae, suggesting that these inversions are actively involved in adaptation and speciation. It is essential to have reliable toolbox for correct identification of these species and to know their range for future possible malaria outbreaks prevention.

mosquitoes, chromosomes, genome mapping, evolution