Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New class of insecticides offers safer, more targeted mosquito control


Purdue researchers have identified a new class of chemical insecticides that could provide a safer, more selective means of controlling mosquitoes that transmit key infectious diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and elephantiasis.

Known as dopamine receptor antagonists, the chemicals beat out the neurotransmitter dopamine to lock into protein receptors that span the mosquito cell membrane.

Purdue researchers Catherine Hill and Val Watts are designing insecticides that disrupt key molecules in disease-transmitting mosquitoes.

Credit: Purdue University / Tom Campbell

Disrupting the mechanics of dopamine - which plays important roles in cell signaling, movement, development and complex behaviors - eventually leads to the insect's death.

The researchers used the mosquito genome to pinpoint chemicals that will be more selective than current insecticides, which bind readily to molecules in humans and non-target insects, said Catherine Hill, professor of entomology and Showalter Faculty Scholar.

"These are sophisticated designer drugs," she said. "They're like personalized medicine for mosquitoes - but in this case, the medicine is lethal."

Hill's team showed that DAR antagonists have high potency for both the larval and adult stages of the Aedes aegypti mosquito - which transmits yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya - and Culex quinquefasciatus, the vector of West Nile virus and the disfiguring disease elephantiasis.

Effective pest control has historically been important in slowing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. But overuse of antibiotics and insecticides has led to the rise of drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases and the emergence of mosquitoes that can withstand conventional pesticides, a "double whammy," Hill said.

"There's an urgent need for new insecticides," she said. "We are seeing a resurgence of infectious diseases that for the last 50 years we had the luxury of controlling with antibiotics and modern medicine. These diseases are increasingly going to become a problem for people everywhere."

The research team designed DAR antagonists to disrupt molecules that are crucial to mosquito survival. The chemicals are structurally distinct from existing insecticides and target a different biochemical path in the mosquito.

The team is mining a group of about 200 DAR antagonists to find the most promising chemicals for commercial products. The insecticides could be cost-effective compared with current products and would have low environmental impact because of their selectivity, Hill said.

The researchers are also taking steps to minimize the risk that the insecticides could bind with human dopamine receptors, said Val Watts, professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology and co-author of the studies.

"Many of the compounds we've identified are selective for mosquito receptors versus human receptors - some at a more than one hundredfold," he said. "Also, some of these compounds are already used as treatments for diseases such as schizophrenia and depression. They are safely handled by physicians and pharmacists every day."

The tougher challenge may be ensuring the insecticides do not affect beneficial insects such as honeybees. While the researchers have identified chemicals that are highly selective for mosquito receptors, they are also exploring the possibility of heightening insecticide specificity by using allosteric modulators, molecules that act like dimmer switches, dialing up or down the cell's response to dopamine.

Similar protein receptors exist in the African malaria mosquito, the sand fly and the tsetse fly, suggesting that DAR antagonists could help control these disease-transmitting insects as well.

"We're going after all the big ones," Hill said.


The paper on the effectiveness of DAR antagonists in C. quinquefasciatus mosquitoes was published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and is available at

A proof-of-concept study on using DAR antagonists to control Ae. aegypti was published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and is available at

Funding for the research was provided by a U.S. Department of Defense Deployed War Fighter Project award, a Purdue Research Foundation Trask Innovation award, and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, which is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Science.

Media Contact

Natalie van Hoose


Natalie van Hoose | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: aegypti antibiotics chemicals diseases dopamine fly insecticides insects mosquito mosquito control mosquitoes

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>