The majority of commercialized insecticides target the insect nervous system and therefore, neural proteins are well-validated targets for insecticide development. Considering that only a few neural targets are exploited for insecticidal action and the development of insecticide resistance has reduced the efficacy of current insecticidal classes, we sought to test the toxicological potential of the potassium-chloride cotransporter (KCC). In mammals, KCC proteins have seminal roles in shaping GABAergic signaling and inhibitory neurotransmission, thus ion transport through KCC is critical for proper neurotransmission. Therefore, we hypothesized that mosquito KCC represents a putative insecticide target site and that pharmacological inhibition of KCC constructs in Aedes aegypti will be lethal. To test this hypothesis, we developed a robust, cell-based fluorescence assay that enables in vitro characterization of small-molecules against Ae. aegypti KCC and performed a proof-of-concept study employing well characterized mammalian KCC modulators to determine the toxicological potential of Ae. aegypti KCC. The selective inhibitor of mammalian KCC, termed VU0463271, was found to be a potent inhibitor Ae. aegypti KCC and microinjection induced lethality in a concentration-dependent manner to susceptible and pyrethroid resistant strains. Importantly, an analog of VU0463271 was shown to be >40-fold less potent and did not induce toxicity, suggesting that the observed physiological effects and mortality are likely due to KCC inhibition. This proof-of-concept study suggests that Ae. aegypti KCC represents a putative target site for mosquitocide design that can mitigate the current mechanisms of insecticide resistance.
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