Biological rhythms in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

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Virginia Tech

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are found globally and also act as the primary vector of Zika, dengue, and Chikungunya viruses, for which there are limited treatment options and no vaccines available. The use of insecticides as the main control strategy against diseases transmitted by this mosquito, is increasingly challenged by emerging resistance. Thus, there is a dire need for the development of novel approaches informed by an improved understanding of mosquito biology, to control mosquito populations and, ultimately, disease transmission. Rhythmic biological processes in mosquitoes help optimize resource exploitation by coordinating behaviors and physiology with fluctuating environmental conditions. Such synchronization enables organisms to adjust their physiology, metabolism, and behavior to predictable external cycles. In mosquitoes, circadian rhythmicity has been demonstrated in their biting and oviposition behavior, as well as their locomotor activity. However, little is known regarding how responses to long-range host cues are modulated by the circadian system. Here we show that both antennal sensitivity and olfactory behavior are time-of-day and odor-specific in Ae. aegypti females. Global transcriptomic analysis in whole heads of Ae. aegypti females reveal chemosensory genes differentially expressed throughout the day, providing insight into the molecular mechanisms behind daily variations in olfactory sensitivity and behaviors. We additionally show an odor-induced activation of mosquito behavior. Mosquito locomotion and behavior are also mediated by physiological state, and activity decreases after blood-feeding. Since the central clock components have been shown in other organisms to be redox-sensitive, we explored the role that diet heme plays in mediating behavioral changes following blood ingestion using artificial blood diets. We found that the transcription of the timekeeping gene period is reduced in the head immediately after feeding on a meal containing hemoglobin, but peripheral period transcription is reduced throughout the course of digestion following ingestion of a protein meal independent of hemoglobin inclusion. Overall, our results show that Ae. aegypti behavioral rhythms mediated by rhythmic gene expression are plastic and susceptible to external host cues and host blood digestion. This work can be leveraged for future studies investigating mosquito host-seeking and blood digestion to identify novel targets for vector control.

Aedes aegypti, mosquitoes, circadian rhythms, diel rhythms, olfaction, host seeking, blood-feeding, metabolism, oxidative stress, digestion