For many years, the mosquitoes that transmit malaria to humans were seen as public enemies, and campaigns to eradicate the disease focused on eliminating the mosquitoes.
But, as a study published today in Science shows, the mosquitoes can also be our allies in the fight against this common foe, which kills almost one million people a year and heavily impairs the economies of affected countries.
In this study, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Strasbourg, France, discovered that variations in a single gene affect mosquitoes’ ability to resist infection by the malaria parasite.
“Malaria parasites must spend part of their lives inside mosquitoes and another part inside humans, so by learning how mosquitoes resist malaria, we may find new tools for controlling its transmission to humans in endemic areas”, says Stephanie Blandin from INSERM, who carried out the research at EMBL in collaboration with Lars Steinmetz’s group and with Rui Wang-Sattler (now at the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich, Germany).
The scientists looked for clues in the genome – the whole DNA – of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, a major carrier of the parasite that causes the most severe form of human malaria in Africa. They focused on the mosquitoes’ resistance to a commonly used model organism: Plasmodium berghei, a parasite that causes malaria in rodents. When they compared the genomes of mosquitoes that could resist this infection to those of mosquitoes that couldn’t, the scientists discovered that the major difference lies in a single section of one chromosome. Of the roughly 975 genes contained in this section of DNA, one in particular appears to play an important role in determining a mosquito’s resistance to malaria. This gene, called TEP1, encodes a protein which was known to bind to and promote the killing of Plasmodium berghei malaria parasites in the mosquito’s midgut, and the scientists discovered that their strain of resistant mosquitoes had a form, or allele, of TEP1, that was different from those found in non-resistant (or susceptible) strains.
To investigate whether this difference in alleles caused the variation in the mosquitoes’ resistance to malaria, the scientists developed a new technique, reciprocal allele-specific RNA interference, inspired by one Steinmetz’s group had previously created to study yeast. “This was a breakthrough, because the new technique is applicable to many different organisms”, says Steinmetz. “It extends the power we gained in yeast: we can go from a whole region of DNA to the actual causative gene – a feat rarely achievable in complex organisms”. The technique enables scientists to identify exactly which allele is behind a specific trait. They produced individual mosquitoes that had one TEP1 allele from the resistant strain and another from a susceptible strain, and then “turned off” – or silenced – one or other of these alleles. The result: silencing different alleles produced mosquitoes with different degrees of resistance to malaria, meaning that an individual mosquito’s resistance to the malaria parasite depends largely on which form(s) of this one gene it carries.
Although this study focused on the parasite that causes malaria in rodents, there is evidence that this gene may also be involved in the mosquitoes’ immune response to human malaria – a connection the scientists are exploring, and which they believe may help to make malaria eradication programs more effective.Source:
Lena Raditsch | EMBL
Progress in Super-Resolution Microscopy
17.12.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Communication between neural networks
17.12.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
17.12.2018 | Studies and Analyses
17.12.2018 | Life Sciences
17.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering