June 22, 2022
Scientific Reports

Estimating female malaria mosquito age by quantifying Y-linked genes in stored male spermatozoa

Damian Madan, Rafael Rivera, Corrie Ortega, Justin C. Touchon, Corinna Kimball, Geert-Jan van Gemert, Wouter Graumans, Stephanie Matsuura, Sean S. Parghi, David Bell, Teun Bousema, Chris Drakeley, Katharine A. Collins & Thomas R. Burkot

Vector control strategies are among the most effective measures to combat mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria. These strategies work by altering the mosquito age structure through increased mortality of the older female mosquitoes that transmit pathogens. However, methods to monitor changes to mosquito age structure are currently inadequate for programmatic implementation. Female mosquitoes generally mate a single time soon after emergence and draw down spermatozoa reserves with each oviposition cycle. Here, we demonstrate that measuring spermatozoa quantity in female Anopheles mosquitoes is an effective approach to assess mosquito age. Using multiplexed qPCR targeted at male spermatozoa, we show that Y-linked genes in female mosquitoes are exclusively found in the spermatheca, the organ that houses spermatozoa, and the quantity of these gene sequences significantly declines with age. The method can accurately identify mosquitoes more than 10 days old and thus old enough to potentially transmit pathogens harbored in the salivary glands during blood feeding. Furthermore, mosquito populations that differ by 10% in daily survivorship have a high likelihood of being distinguished using modest sample sizes, making this approach scalable for assessing the efficacy of vector intervention control programs.

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