Chromosomal Evolution of Malaria Vectors


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


International malaria control initiatives such as the Roll Back Malaria Initiative (RBM) and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) mobilize resources and spur research aimed at vector control as well as the treatment and eventual eradication of the disease. These efforts have managed to reduce incidence of malaria by an estimated 37% worldwide since 2000. However, despite the promising success of control efforts such as these, the World Health Organization reports a staggering 438,000 deaths from malaria in 2015. The continuing high death toll of malaria as well as emerging insecticide and antimalarial drug resistance suggests that while encouraging, success in reducing malaria incidence may be tenuous. Current vector control strategies are often complicated by ecological and behavioral heterogeneity of vector mosquito populations. As an additional obstruction, mosquito genomes are highly plastic as evidenced by the wealth or chromosomal inversions that have occurred in this genus. Chromosomal inversions have been correlated with differences in adaptation to aridity, insecticide resistance, and differences in resting behavior. However, a good understanding of the molecular mechanisms for inversion generation is still lacking. One possible contributor to inversion formation in Anopheles mosquitoes includes repetitive DNA such as transposable elements (TEs), tandem repeats (TRs) and inverted repeats (IRs). This dissertation provides physical maps for two important malaria vectors, An. stephensi and An. albimanus (Ch.2 and Ch. 3) and then applies those maps to the identification of inversion breakpoints in malaria mosquitoes. Repeat content of each chromosomal arm and the molecular characterization of lineage specific breakpoints is also investigated (Ch. 2 and Ch.4). Our study reveals differences in patterns of chromosomal evolution of Anopheles mosquitoes vs. Drosophila. First, mosquito chromosomes tend to shuffle as intact elements via whole arm translocations and do not under fissions or fusions as seen in fruitflies. Second, the mosquito sex chromosome is changing at a much higher rate relative to the autosomes in malaria mosquitoes than in fruit flies. Third, our molecular characterization of inversion breakpoints indicates that TEs and TRs may participate in inversion genesis in an arm specific manner.



chromosomal evolution, vector-borne disease, malaria, mosquitoes