Virginia Tech researchers successfully used a gene disruption technique to change the eye color of a mosquito — a critical step toward new genetic strategies aimed at disrupting the transmission of diseases such as dengue fever.
Virginia Tech researchers successfully used a gene disruption technique to change the eye color of a mosquito -- a critical step toward new genetic strategies aimed at disrupting the transmission of diseases such as dengue fever. The varied colors of the eyes of these mosquitoes, modified using TALEN technology, is because of cell-to-cell variability in the degree of gene editing.
Credit: Virginia Tech
Zach Adelman and Kevin Myles, both associate professors of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and affiliated researchers with the Fralin Life Science Institute, study the transmission of vector-borne diseases and develop novel methods of control, based on genetics.
In a groundbreaking study recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists used a pair of engineered proteins to cut DNA in a site-specific manner to disrupt a targeted gene in the mosquito genome. Science magazine heralded these transcription activator-like effector nuclease proteins, known as TALENS, as a major scientific breakthrough in 2012, nicknaming them "genomic cruise missiles" for their ability to allow researchers to target specific locations with great efficiency.
While TALENS have been previously used to edit the genomes of animal and human cell cultures, applying them to the mosquito genome is a new approach, according to Adelman.
"Unlike model organisms with large collections of mutant strains to draw upon, the lack of reverse genetic tools in the mosquito has made it is very difficult to assign functions to genes in a definitive manner," Adelman said. "With the development of this technology, our understanding of the genetic basis of many critical behaviors such as blood-feeding, host-seeking and pathogen transmission should be greatly accelerated."
To test the capability of TALENs to specifically edit the mosquito genome, the scientists designed a pair of TALENS to target a gene whose protein product is essential to the production of eye pigmentation in Aedes aegypti, a mosquito species known for its transmission of the viruses that cause dengue fever.
Using the TALEN pair to edit the gene in the mosquito's germ cells early in development, they were able to change the eye color of a large percentage of the mosquitoes arising in the next generation from black to white.
"To date, efforts to control dengue transmission through genetics have focused entirely on adding material to the mosquito genome. Ensuring that this added material is expressed properly and consistently has been a challenge," Adelman said. "This technology allows us to pursue the same goals, namely, the generation of pathogen-resistant mosquitoes, through subtraction. For example, removing or altering a gene that is critical for pathogen replication."
"Aedes mosquitoes have become increasingly important as vectors of disease from a public health perspective," said George Dimopoulos, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at John Hopkins University who was not involved in the study. "The lack of vaccines and drugs for dengue has left the mosquitoes that carry the virus as one of the most promising targets for controlling the disease. A better understanding of how the virus infects the mosquito and other biological properties of the insect will be required to develop intervention strategies that can block virus transmission by the mosquito. The ability to genetically engineer mosquitoes is essential for the study of such biological functions. The TALEN-based system in mosquitoes that that was developed by Dr. Adelman provides this important capacity."
Co-authors of the study include Azadeh Aryan, a Ph.D. student in the department of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Michelle A.E. Anderson, a research technician in the department of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Lindsay Key | EurekAlert!
The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow
25.07.2017 | Rudolf-Virchow-Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin der Universität Würzburg
Fungi that evolved to eat wood offer new biomass conversion tool
25.07.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences