One potential strategy for the control of malaria and other vector-borne diseases is the introduction into wild vector populations of genetic constructs that reduce vectorial capacity. An important caveat of this approach is that the genetic construct should have minimal fitness cost to the transformed vector. Previously, we produced transgenic Anopheles stephensi expressing either of two effector genes, a tetramer of the SM1 dodecapeptide or the phospholipase A2 gene (PLA2) from honeybee venom. Mosquitoes carrying either of these transgenes were impaired for Plasmodium berghei transmission. We have investigated the role of two effector genes for malaria parasite blockage in terms of the fitness imposed to the mosquito vector that expresses either molecule. By measuring mosquito survival, fecundity, fertility, and by running population cage experiments, we found that mosquitoes transformed with the SM1 construct showed no significant reduction in these fitness parameters relative to nontransgenic controls. The PLA2 transgenics, however, had reduced fitness that seemed to be independent of the insertion site of the transgene. We conclude that the fitness load imposed by refractory gene (s)-expressing mosquitoes depends on the effect of the transgenic protein produced in that mosquito. These results have important implications for implementation of malaria control via genetic modification of mosquitoes.
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