COLUMBUS, Ohio Mosquitoes make proteins to help them handle the stressful spike in body temperature that's prompted by their hot blood meals, a new study has found.
The mosquito's eating pattern is inherently risky: Taking a blood meal involves finding warm-blooded hosts, avoiding detection, penetrating tough skin and evading any host immune response, not to mention the slap of a human hand.
Until now, the stress of the hot blood meal itself has been overlooked, researchers say.
Scientists have determined in female mosquitoes that the insects protect themselves from the stress of the change in body temperature during and after a meal by producing heat shock proteins. These proteins protect the integrity of other proteins and enzymes, in turn helping the mosquitoes digest the blood meal and maintain their ability to produce eggs.
Tests in two other types of mosquitoes and in bed bugs showed that these insects undergo a similar response after a blood meal.
"These heat shock proteins are really important in a lot of stress responses. Our own bodies make these proteins when we have a fever," said David Denlinger, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. "It's one of those things that, in retrospect, seems obvious that blood meals might cause a stress like that. But it hadn't been pursued before."
The research appears this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Denlinger and colleagues conducted experiments in the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is a carrier of yellow fever.
The researchers placed sensors on female mosquitoes and observed that upon taking in a blood meal on a chicken, the insects' body temperatures increased from 22 to 32 degrees Celsius (71.6 to 89.6 Fahrenheit) within one minute among the most rapid body temperature increases ever recorded
|Contact: David Denlinger|
Ohio State University