microRNA Knockdown as Insecticide

Each year, dengue fever infects as many as 100 million people while yellow fever is responsible for about 30,000 deaths worldwide. Mosquitoes, such as Aedes aegypti, serve as vectors for disease pathogens because they require vertebrate blood for their egg production. Pathogen transmission is tightly linked to repeated cycles of obligatory blood feeding and egg maturation.

Researchers at UC Riverside have uncovered an essential regulator of blood-meal–activated processes, the microRNA miR-275. The depletion of this microRNA in A. aegypti females after injection of its specific antagomir resulted in severe defects in blood digestion, fluid excretion, and egg development, clearly demonstrating that miR-275 is indispensable for these physiological processes.

“Our finding is exciting because it gets to the very core of what a vector of diseases is all about,” said Alexander Raikhel, a distinguished professor of entomology, whose lab led the study. “We can now knock down a series of events — starting with the digestion of blood and proceeding all the way to egg maturation — simply by eliminating this small molecule, miR-275. In tropical areas of the world, where dengue and yellow fever are often leading causes of hospitalization and death among adults and children, a reduction in the number of A. aegypti mosquitoes would be tremendously beneficial.”

Bryant B, Macdonald W, Raikhel AS. (2010) microRNA miR-275 is indispensable for blood digestion and egg development in the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

(UC Riverside press release)

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