Malaria-transmitting mosquitoes are continuously exposed to microbes, including their midgut microbiota. This naturally acquired microbial flora can modulate the mosquito's vectorial capacity by inhibiting the development of Plasmodium and other human pathogens through an unknown mechanism. We have undertaken a comprehensive functional genomic approach to elucidate the molecular interplay between the bacterial co-infection and the development of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in its natural vector Anopheles gambiae. Global transcription profiling of septic and aseptic mosquitoes identified a significant subset of immune genes that were mostly up-regulated by the mosquito's microbial flora, including several anti-Plasmodium factors. Microbe-free aseptic mosquitoes displayed an increased susceptibility to Plasmodium infection while co-feeding mosquitoes with bacteria and P. falciparum gametocytes resulted in lower than normal infection levels. Infection analyses suggest the bacteria-mediated anti-Plasmodium effect is mediated by the mosquitoes' antimicrobial immune responses, plausibly through activation of basal immunity. We show that the microbiota can modulate the anti-Plasmodium effects of some immune genes. In sum, the microbiota plays an essential role in modulating the mosquito's capacity to sustain Plasmodium infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology