Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study shows how mosquitoes handle the heat of a hot blood meal

Mosquitoes make proteins to help them handle the stressful spike in body temperature that’s prompted by their hot blood meals, a new study has found.

The mosquito’s eating pattern is inherently risky: Taking a blood meal involves finding warm-blooded hosts, avoiding detection, penetrating tough skin and evading any host immune response, not to mention the slap of a human hand.

Until now, the stress of the hot blood meal itself has been overlooked, researchers say.

Scientists have determined in female mosquitoes that the insects protect themselves from the stress of the change in body temperature during and after a meal by producing heat shock proteins. These proteins protect the integrity of other proteins and enzymes, in turn helping the mosquitoes digest the blood meal and maintain their ability to produce eggs.

Tests in two other types of mosquitoes and in bed bugs showed that these insects undergo a similar response after a blood meal.

“These heat shock proteins are really important in a lot of stress responses. Our own bodies make these proteins when we have a fever,” said David Denlinger, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “It’s one of those things that, in retrospect, seems obvious – that blood meals might cause a stress like that. But it hadn’t been pursued before.”

The research appears this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Denlinger and colleagues conducted experiments in the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is a carrier of yellow fever.

The researchers placed sensors on female mosquitoes and observed that upon taking in a blood meal on a chicken, the insects’ body temperatures increased from 22 to 32 degrees Celsius (71.6 to 89.6 Fahrenheit) within one minute – among the most rapid body temperature increases ever recorded in a cold-blooded animal. After the feeding, their body temperatures decreased to room temperature within a few minutes.

In response to that blood feeding, the mosquitoes’ level of Hsp70 – heat shock protein 70 – increased nearly eightfold within one hour and remained at least twice as high as usual for 12 hours. The increase in these proteins was most pronounced in the midgut area.

Denlinger and colleagues tested potential triggers for this protein increase by injecting the mosquitoes with a saline solution at two temperatures: 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and room temperature. Only the warmer saline generated an increase in Hsp70, suggesting that the elevation in temperature associated with the meal, rather than the subsequent increase in body volume, is what causes the generation of those proteins.

Sometimes, mosquitoes feed on cold-blooded amphibians, which should not cause the same amount of stress. To test that theory, the researchers also gave mosquitoes a feeding opportunity on cooler blood, which failed to generate an increase in heat shock proteins.

And what happens if this protein is not produced? The researchers manipulated the mosquitoes’ RNA to figure that out.

When the scientists knocked down expression of the gene that encodes the heat shock protein, the amount of Hsp70 production was reduced by 75 percent. Under those circumstances, mosquitoes still ate a normal blood meal. But blood protein levels remained elevated for a longer period of time, suggesting that digestion of those proteins was impaired. In addition, egg production decreased by 25 percent when the heat shock protein was suppressed.

Heat shock proteins help maintain the three-dimensional integrity of enzymes and proteins when temperatures rise suddenly, and can target damaged proteins and enzymes for elimination, Denlinger said. “We think that in this case, they are important to maintaining the integrity of some critical enzymes and proteins involved in digestive processes. When we knock out those proteins, it impairs digestion a bit and as a result the mosquitoes don’t lay as many eggs,” he said.

The researchers observed similar body temperature increases and elevations in Hsp70 levels in three other insects: Culex pipiens and Anopheles gambiae, mosquitoes that are carriers of West Nile virus and malaria, respectively, and Cimex lectularius, the bed bug. Though new knowledge about the genetics of these insects, especially the mosquitoes, might someday inform attempts to kill them as a method of disease control, Denlinger said the primary contribution of this research is better understanding of how mosquitoes protect themselves in this novel way.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Science Foundation.

Co-authors include Joshua Benoit, a former Ohio State graduate student who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, and Giancarlo Lopez-Martinez, Kevin Patrick, Zachary Phillips and Tyler Krause of Ohio State’s Departments of Entomology and Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology. Lopez-Martinez is now at the University of Florida.

Contact: David Denlinger, (614) 292-6425;
Written by Emily Caldwell, (614) 292-8310;

David Denlinger | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>