Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Virginia Tech researchers alter mosquito genome in step toward controlling disease

Fralin Life Science Institute researchers use TALENS to alter mosquito genome

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!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Sweetening neurotransmitter receptors and other neuronal proteins
28.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung

nachricht A new look at thyroid diseases
28.10.2016 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

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...

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>