A news release from the University of California at Riverside: Researchers identify new approach for controlling dengue fever and Zika virus. Excerpt:
Mosquitoes are the world’s deadliest animals, killing thousands of people and causing millions of illnesses each year. To be able to reproduce and become effective disease carriers, mosquitoes must first attain optimal body size and nutritional status.
A pair of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have succeeded in using CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful tool for altering DNA sequences and modifying gene function, to decrease mosquito body size, moving the research one step closer to eliminating mosquitoes that carry dengue fever and Zika virus.
The researchers succeeded in postponing mosquito development, shortening the animal’s lifespan, retarding egg development, and diminishing fat accumulation.
Alexander Raikhel, a distinguished professor of entomology, and Lin Ling, a postdoctoral scholar working with Raikhel, used CRISPR-Cas9 to disrupt the serotonin receptor Aa5HT2B in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the vectors of dengue fever, yellow fever, and Zika virus.
“Aa5HT2B controls insulin-like peptides,” Raikhel said. “We were able to uncover the different roles that these peptides play in controlling body size and metabolism, and disrupt the gene associated with this receptor.”
The team accomplished this, Raikhel said, by uncovering a key molecular pathway determining mosquito body size and metabolism.
“Mosquitoes of small size with diminished fat resources mature later and live shorter lives than nonmodified mosquitoes,” he said. “Thus, these genetically engineered mosquitoes have low reproductive capacity and ability to transmit disease pathogens. These features of CRISR-Cas9 mutant mosquitoes can be exploited for developing novel mosquito control approaches. Many challenges remain on the road, however, toward achieving this goal.”
Study results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.