Multigene Phylogenetics Reveals Temporal Diversification of Major African Malaria Vectors


The major vectors of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa belong to subgenus Cellia. Yet, phylogenetic relationships and temporal diversification among African mosquito species have not been unambiguously determined. Knowledge about vector evolutionary history is crucial for correct interpretation of genetic changes identified through comparative genomics analyses. In this study, we estimated a molecular phylogeny using 49 gene sequences for the African malaria vectors An. gambiae, An. funestus, An. nili, the Asian malaria mosquito An. stephensi, and the outgroup species Culex quinquefasciatus and Aedes aegypti. To infer the phylogeny, we identified orthologous sequences uniformly distributed approximately every 5 Mb in the five chromosomal arms. The sequences were aligned and the phylogenetic trees were inferred using maximum likelihood and neighbor-joining methods. Bayesian molecular dating using a relaxed log normal model was used to infer divergence times. Trees from individual genes agreed with each other, placing An. nili as a basal clade that diversified from the studied malaria mosquito species 47.6 million years ago (mya). Other African malaria vectors originated more recently, and independently acquired traits related to vectorial capacity. The lineage leading to An. gambiae diverged 30.4 mya, while the African vector An. funestus and the Asian vector An. stephensi were the most closely related sister taxa that split 20.8 mya. These results were supported by consistently high bootstrap values in concatenated phylogenetic trees generated individually for each chromosomal arm. Genome-wide multigene phylogenetic analysis is a useful approach for discerning historic relationships among malaria vectors, providing a framework for the correct interpretation of genomic changes across species, and comprehending the evolutionary origins of this ubiquitous and deadly insect-borne disease.

anopheles-nili group, molecular-identification, population-genetics, cytogenetic map, genome sequence, gambiae, culicidae, diptera, mosquitos, cameroon