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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040556. Epub 2012 Jul 10.

Enhanced survival of Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes during starvation.

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  • 1Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.


Plasmodium spp. are pathogenic to their vertebrate hosts and also apparently, impose a fitness cost on their insect vectors. We show here, however, that Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes survive starvation significantly better than uninfected mosquitoes. This survival advantage during starvation is associated with higher energy resource storage that infected mosquitoes accumulate during period of Plasmodium oocyst development. Microarray analysis revealed that the metabolism of sated mosquitoes is altered in the presence of rapidly growing oocysts, including the down-regulation of several enzymes involved in carbohydrate catabolism. In addition, enhanced expression of several insulin-like peptides was observed in Plasmodium-infected mosquitoes. Blocking insulin-like signaling pathway resulted in impaired Plasmodium development. We conclude that Plasmodium infection alters metabolic pathways in mosquitoes, epitomized by enhanced insulin-like signaling - thereby conferring a survival advantage to the insects during periods of starvation. Manipulation of this pathway might provide new strategies to influence the ability of mosquitoes to survive and transmit the protozoa that cause malaria.

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