The midgut transcriptome of Aedes aegypti fed with saline or protein meals containing chikungunya virus reveals genes potentially involved in viral midgut escape

Shengzhang Dong, Susanta K. Behura, Alexander W.E. Franz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the primary vector for medically important arthropod-borne viruses, including chikungunya virus (CHIKV). Following oral acquisition, an arbovirus has to persistently infect several organs in the mosquito before becoming transmissible to another vertebrate host. A major obstacle an arbovirus has to overcome during its infection cycle inside the mosquito is the midgut escape barrier, representing the exit mechanism arboviruses utilize when disseminating from the midgut. To understand the transcriptomic basis of midgut escape and to reveal genes involved in the process, we conducted a comparative transcriptomic analysis of midgut samples from mosquitoes which had received a saline meal (SM) or a protein meal (PM) (not) containing CHIKV. Results: CHIKV which was orally acquired by a mosquito along with a SM or PM productively infected the midgut epithelium and disseminated to secondary tissues. A total of 27 RNA-Seq libraries from midguts of mosquitoes that had received PM or SM (not) containing CHIKV at 1 and 2 days post-feeding were generated and sequenced. Fewer than 80 genes responded differentially to the presence of CHIKV in midguts of mosquitoes that had acquired the virus along with SM or PM. SM feeding induced differential expression (DE) of 479 genes at day 1 and 314 genes at day 2 when compared to midguts of sugarfed mosquitoes. By comparison, PM feeding induced 6029 DE genes at day 1 and 7368 genes at day 2. Twenty-three DE genes encoding trypsins, metalloproteinases, and serine-type endopeptidases were significantly upregulated in midguts of mosquitoes at day 1 following SM or PM ingestion. Two of these genes were Ae. aegypti late trypsin (AeLT) and serine collagenase 1 precursor (AeSP1). In vitro, recombinant AeLT showed strong matrix metalloproteinase activity whereas recombinant AeSP1 did not. Conclusions: By substituting a bloodmeal for SM, we identified midgut-expressed genes not involved in blood or protein digestion. These included genes coding for trypsins, metalloproteinases, and serine-type endopeptidases, which could be involved in facilitating midgut escape for arboviruses in Ae. aegypti. The presence of CHIKV in any of the ingested meals had relatively minor effects on the overall gene expression profiles in midguts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number382
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 2017


  • Aedes aegypti
  • Basal lamina
  • Chikungunya virus
  • Collagen IV degradation
  • Immunity- related gene
  • Midgut escape barrier
  • Protein meal
  • RNA-Seq
  • Saline meal
  • Serine collagenase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics

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