Genetic discovery sterilizes mosquitoes and could be an alternative to traditional insecticides

A genetic discovery made by researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) could ‘hold time’ for disease-carrying mosquitoes, preventing them from maturing and reproducing.

According to UCR entomologist Naoki Yamanaka, a steroid called ecdysone, classified as a “fusion hormone,” is essential to the fruit fly’s maturation process.

He tested different types of insects and discovered the presence of ecdysone in each of them. And in almost all of them, this hormone is transported between cells by a group of four proteins. Except mosquitoes.

mosquito egg hatching. Genetic discoveries can render these insects sterile and prevent them from reproducing. Image: Rattiya Thongdumhyu –

Yamanaka discovered that mosquitoes only have three of the four transport proteins, and the one they lack is precisely the primary transport, the most important. “This principle is mysteriously absent in mosquitoes,” said the scientist, whose findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

His study makes it possible to develop a specific insecticide for mosquitoes that does not harm beneficial organisms such as bees or other pollinators. On the other hand, it would be an effective weapon against Aedes aegypti, responsible for diseases such as Zika, dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.

“We can design chemicals to block the functions of these ecdysone transporters, but we don’t interfere with the original transporter that is so important for other insects,” Yamanaka said. “The likelihood of off-target effects would be low. »

His lab is now researching chemicals that may protect ecdysone importers from mosquitoes. He also studies ecdysone transporters in other animals.

There are other methods to ensure that local mosquito populations cannot reproduce. Releasing sterile, irradiated males into the wild to mate with females results in eggs that don’t hatch, a technique that eliminates the need for insecticide use.

While there are effective methods like these to control local mosquito populations, Yamanaka believes it is important to develop additional tools so that we can address mosquito issues in many different environments.

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