Drastic changes in gene expression occur after adult female mosquitoes take a blood meal and use the nutrients for egg maturation. A growing body of evidence indicates that microRNAs (miRNAs) contribute to this tightly controlled tissue- and stage-specific gene expression. To investigate the role of miRNAs, we monitored miRNA expression in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae during the 72-h period immediately after blood feeding. We also measured the association of miRNAs with Argonaute 1 (Ago1) and Argonaute 2 (Ago2) to assess the functional status of individual miRNA species. Overall, 173 mature miRNAs were precipitated with Ago1 and Ago2, including 12 new miRNAs, the orthologs of which are found thus far only in other Anopheles species. Ago1 is the predominant carrier of miRNAs in Anopheles gambiae. The abundance and Ago loading of most of the mature miRNAs were relatively stable after blood ingestion. However, miRNAs of the miR-309/286/2944 cluster were considerably upregulated after blood feeding. Injection of the specific antagomir for miR-309 resulted in smaller developing oocytes and ultimately fewer eggs. In addition, the Ago association of some miRNAs was not proportional to their cellular abundance, suggesting that integration of miRNAs into the Ago complexes is regulated by additional mechanisms.
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