Biopen Webinar: The Taste of Blood in Mosquitoes


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AbstractBlood-feeding mosquitoes survive by feeding on nectar for metabolic energy, but to develop eggs, females require a blood meal. Aedes aegypti females must accurately discriminate between blood and nectar because detection of each meal promotes one of two mutually exclusive feeding programs characterized by distinct sensory appendages, meal sizes, digestive tract targets, and metabolic fates. We investigated the role of the syringe-like blood-feeding appendage, the stylet, and discovered that sexually dimorphic stylet neurons are the first to taste blood. Using pan-neuronal GCaMP calcium imaging, we found that blood is detected by four functionally distinct classes of stylet neurons, each tuned to specific blood components associated with diverse taste qualities. Furthermore, the stylet is specialized to detect blood over nectar. Stylet neurons are insensitive to nectar-specific sugars and responses to glucose, the sugar found in both blood and nectar, depend on the presence of additional blood components. The distinction between blood and nectar is therefore encoded in specialized neurons at the very first level of sensory detection in mosquitoes. This innate ability to recognize blood is the basis of vector-borne disease transmission to millions of people world-wide.

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