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Transposons are highly abundant in eukaryotic genomes, but their mobilization must be finely tuned to maintain host organism fitness and allow for transposon propagation. Forty percent of the human genome is comprised of transposable element sequences, and the most abundant cut-and-paste transposons are from the hAT superfamily. We found that the hAT transposase TcBuster from Tribolium castaneum formed filamentous structures, or rodlets, in human tissue culture cells, after gene transfer to adult mice, and ex vivo in cell-free conditions, indicating that host co-factors or cellular structures were not required for rodlet formation. Time-lapsed imaging of GFP-laced rodlets in human cells revealed that they formed quickly in a dynamic process involving fusion and fission. We delayed the availability of the transposon DNA and found that transposition declined after transposase concentrations became high enough for visible transposase rodlets to appear. In combination with earlier findings for maize Ac elements, these results give insight into transposase overproduction inhibition by demonstrating that the appearance of transposase protein structures and the end of active transposition are simultaneous, an effect with implications for genetic engineering and horizontal gene transfer.
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research 2016. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.
Insects combat infection by mounting powerful immune responses that are mediated by hemocytes, the fat body, the midgut, the salivary glands and other tissues. Foreign organisms that have entered the body of an insect are recognized by the immune system when pathogen-associated molecular patterns bind host-derived pattern recognition receptors. This, in turn, activates immune signaling pathways that amplify the immune response, induce the production of factors with antimicrobial activity, and activate effector pathways. Among the immune signaling pathways are the Toll, Imd, Jak/Stat, JNK, and insulin pathways. Activation of these and other pathways leads to pathogen killing via phagocytosis, melanization, cellular encapsulation, nodulation, lysis, RNAi-mediated virus destruction, autophagy and apoptosis. This review details these and other aspects of immunity in insects, and discusses how the immune and circulatory systems have co-adapted to combat infection, how hemocyte replication and differentiation takes place (hematopoiesis), how an infection prepares an insect for a subsequent infection (immune priming), how environmental factors such as temperature and the age of the insect impact the immune response, and how social immunity protects entire groups. Finally, this review highlights some underexplored areas in the field of insect immunobiology.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The principal Afrotropical malaria vector mosquito, Anopheles gambiae remains a significant threat to human health. In this anthropophagic species, females detect and respond to a range of human-derived volatile kairomones such as ammonia, lactic acid, and other carboxylic acids in their quest for blood meals. While the molecular underpinnings of mosquito olfaction and host seeking are becoming better understood, many questions remain unanswered. In this study, we have identified and characterized two candidate ammonium transporter genes, AgAmt and AgRh50 that are expressed in the mosquito antenna and may contribute to physiological and behavioral responses to ammonia, which is an important host kairomone for vector mosquitoes. AgAmt transcripts are highly enhanced in female antennae while a splice variant of AgRh50 appears to be antennal-specific. Functional expression of AgAmt in Xenopus laevis oocytes facilitates inward currents in response to both ammonium and methylammonium, while AgRh50 is able to partially complement a yeast ammonium transporter mutant strain, validating their conserved roles as ammonium transporters. We present evidence to suggest that both AgAmt and AgRh50 are in vivo ammonium transporters that are important for ammonia sensitivity in An. gambiae antennae, either by clearing ammonia from the sensillar lymph or by facilitating sensory neuron responses to environmental exposure. Accordingly, AgAmt and AgRh50 represent new and potentially important targets for the development of novel vector control strategies.
To explore the structural basis for odorant specificity in odorant receptors of the human malaria vector mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, odorant-binding subunits (Agam\Ors) expressed in Xenopus oocytes in combination with Agam\Orco (coreceptor subunit) were assayed by 2-electrode voltage clamp against 25 structurally related odorants. Agam\Or13 and Agam\Or15 display 82% amino acid identity and had similar, but somewhat distinct odorant response profiles. The ratio of acetophenone to 4-methylphenol responses was used in a mutation-based analysis of Agam\Or15, interchanging 37 disparate residues between Agam\Or15 and Agam\Or13. Eleven mutations caused significant changes in odorant responsiveness. Mutation of alanine 195 resulted in the largest shift in response ratio from Agam\Or15 toward Agam\Or13. Concentration-response analysis for a series of mutations of residue 195 revealed a large effect on acetophenone sensitivity, with EC50 values varying by >1800-fold and correlating with residue side chain length. Similar results were obtained for propiophenone and benzaldehyde. But, for other odorants, such as 4-methylphenol, 4-methylbenzaldehyde, and 4-methylpropiophenone, the effect of mutation was much smaller (EC50 values varied by ≤16-fold). These results show that alanine 195, putatively located at the second extracellular loop/fourth transmembrane domain interface, plays a critical role in determining the odorant response specificity of Agam\Or15.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.
Thermolysin, a metallopeptidase secreted by pathogenic microbes, is concluded as an important virulence factor due to cleaving purified host proteins in vitro. Using the silkworm Bombyx mori as a model system, we found that thermolysin injection into larvae induces the destruction of the coagulation response and the activation of hemolymph melanization, which results in larval death. Thermolysin triggers the rapid degradation of insect and mammalian plasma proteins at a level that is considerably greater than expected in vitro and/or in vivo. To more specifically explore the mechanism, thermolysin-induced changes to key proteins belonging to the insect melanization pathway were assessed as a window for observing plasma protein cleavage. The application of thermolysin induced the rapid cleavage of the melanization negative regulator serpin-3, but did not directly activate the melanization rate-limiting enzyme prophenoloxidase (PPO) or the terminal serine proteases responsible for PPO activation. Terminal serine proteases of melanization are activated indirectly after thermolysin exposure. We hypothesize that thermolysin induces the rapid degradation of serpins and the activation of proteases directly or indirectly, boosting uncontrolled plasma protein degradation in insects and mammalians.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Insects fight infection using a variety of signaling pathways and immune effector proteins. In Drosophila melanogaster, three members of the Nimrod gene family (draper, nimC1 and eater) bind bacteria, and this binding leads to phagocytosis by hemocytes. The Nimrod gene family has since been identified in other insects, but their function in non-drosophilids remains unknown. The purpose of this study was to identify the members of the Nimrod gene family in the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, and to assess their role in immunity. We identified and sequenced three members of this gene family, herein named draper, nimrod and eater, which are the orthologs of D. melanogaster draper, nimB2 and eater, respectively. The three genes are preferentially expressed in hemocytes and their peak developmental expression is in pupae and young adults. Infection induces the transcriptional upregulation of all three genes, but the magnitude of this upregulation becomes more attenuated as mosquitoes become older. RNAi-based knockdown of eater, but not draper or nimrod, decreased a mosquito's ability to kill Escherichia coli in the hemocoel. Knockdown of draper, eater, or any combination of Nimrod family genes rendered mosquitoes more likely to die from Staphylococcus epidermidis. Finally, knockdown of Nimrod family genes did not impact mRNA levels of the antimicrobial peptides defensin (def1), cecropin (cecA) or gambicin (gam1), but eater knockdown led to a decrease in mRNA levels of nitric oxide synthase. Together, these data show that members of the A. gambiae Nimrod gene family are positive regulators of the mosquito antibacterial response.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Thermosensation provides vital inputs for the malaria vector mosquito, Anopheles gambiae which utilizes heat-sensitivity within a broad spectrum of behaviors, most notably, the localization of human hosts for blood feeding. In this study, we examine thermosensory behaviors in larval-stage An. gambiae, which as a result of their obligate aquatic habitats and importance for vectorial capacity, represents an opportunistic target for vector control as part of the global campaign to eliminate malaria. As is the case for adults, immature mosquitoes respond differentially to a diverse array of external heat stimuli. In addition, larvae exhibit a striking phenotypic plasticity in thermal-driven behaviors that are established by temperature at which embryonic development occurs. Within this spectrum, RNAi-directed gene-silencing studies provide evidence for the essential role of the Transient Receptor Potential sub-family A1 (TRPA1) channel in mediating larval thermal-induced locomotion and thermal preference within a discrete upper range of ambient temperatures.
Insect odorant receptors function as heteromeric odorant-gated cation channels comprising a conventional odorant-sensitive tuning receptor, and a conserved co-receptor (Orco). An Orco agonist, VUAA1, is able to activate both heteromeric and homomeric Orco-containing channels. Very little is known about specific residues in Orco that contribute to cation permeability and gating. We investigated the importance of two conserved Asp residues, one in each of transmembrane domains 5 and 7, for channel function by mutagenesis. Drosophila melanogaster Orco and its substitution mutants were expressed in HEK cells and VUAA1-stimulated channel activity was determined by Ca(2+) influx and whole-cell patch clamp electrophysiology. Substitution of D466 in transmembrane 7 with amino acids other than glutamic acid resulted in a substantial reduction in channel activity. The D466E Orco substitution mutant was ~2 times more sensitive to VUAA1. The permeability of the D466E Orco mutant to cations was unchanged relative to wild-type Orco. When D466E Orco is co-expressed with a conventional tuning odorant receptor, the heteromeric complex also shows increased sensitivity to an odorant. Thus, the effect of the D466E mutation is not specific to VUAA1 agonism or dependent on homomeric Orco assembly. We suggest the gain-of-activation characteristic of the D466E mutant identifies an amino acid that is likely to be important for activation of both heteromeric and homomeric insect odorant receptor channels.
Insect odorant receptors (ORs) function as heteromeric odorant-gated ion channels consisting of a conserved coreceptor, Orco, and an odorant-sensitive tuning subunit. Although some OR modulators have been identified, an extended library of pharmacological tools is currently lacking and would aid in furthering our understanding of insect OR complexes. We now demonstrate that amiloride and several derivatives, which have been extensively used as blockers for various ion channels and transporters, also block odorant-gated currents from 2 OR complexes from the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae. In addition, both heteromeric and homomeric ORs were susceptible to amiloride blockade when activated by VUAA1, an agonist that targets the Orco channel subunit. Amiloride derivatives therefore represent a valuable class of channel blockers that can be used to investigate the pharmacological and biophysical properties of insect OR function.
The innate immune system is an ancient component of host defense. Since innate immunity pathways are well conserved throughout many eukaryotes, immune genes in model animals can be used to putatively identify homologous genes in newly sequenced genomes of non-model organisms. With the initiation of the "i5k" project, which aims to sequence 5,000 insect genomes by 2016, many novel insect genomes will soon become publicly available, yet few annotation resources are currently available for insects. Thus, we developed an online tool called the Insect Innate Immunity Database (IIID) to provide an open access resource for insect immunity and comparative biology research (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/IIID). The database provides users with simple exploratory tools to search the immune repertoires of five insect models (including Nasonia), spanning three orders, for specific immunity genes or genes within a particular immunity pathway. As a proof of principle, we used an initial database with only four insect models to annotate potential immune genes in the parasitoid wasp genus Nasonia. Results specify 306 putative immune genes in the genomes of N. vitripennis and its two sister species N. giraulti and N. longicornis. Of these genes, 146 were not found in previous annotations of Nasonia immunity genes. Combining these newly identified immune genes with those in previous annotations, Nasonia possess 489 putative immunity genes, the largest immune repertoire found in insects to date. While these computational predictions need to be complemented with functional studies, the IIID database can help initiate and augment annotations of the immune system in the plethora of insect genomes that will soon become available.