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PLoS Pathog. 2006 Dec;2(12):e133.

Fz2 and cdc42 mediate melanization and actin polymerization but are dispensable for Plasmodium killing in the mosquito midgut.

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Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, UPR9022 du CNRS, Equipe Avenir INSERM, Strasbourg, France.


The midgut epithelium of the mosquito malaria vector Anopheles is a hostile environment for Plasmodium, with most parasites succumbing to host defenses. This study addresses morphological and ultrastructural features associated with Plasmodium berghei ookinete invasion in Anopheles gambiae midguts to define the sites and possible mechanisms of parasite killing. We show by transmission electron microscopy and immunofluorescence that the majority of ookinetes are killed in the extracellular space. Dead or dying ookinetes are surrounded by a polymerized actin zone formed within the basal cytoplasm of adjacent host epithelial cells. In refractory strain mosquitoes, we found that formation of this zone is strongly linked to prophenoloxidase activation leading to melanization. Furthermore, we identify two factors controlling both phenomena: the transmembrane receptor frizzled-2 and the guanosine triphosphate-binding protein cell division cycle 42. However, the disruption of actin polymerization and melanization by double-stranded RNA inhibition did not affect ookinete survival. Our results separate the mechanisms of parasite killing from subsequent reactions manifested by actin polymerization and prophenoloxidase activation in the A. gambiae-P. berghei model. These latter processes are reminiscent of wound healing in other organisms, and we propose that they represent a form of wound-healing response directed towards a moribund ookinete, which is perceived as damaged tissue.

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