Researchers uncover viral small RNAs in mosquito cells – ScienceDaily


Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers have made a new genomics resource available that details the small RNA transcriptomes (gene expression) of four biomedically important mosquito species.

This is the first study to provide biologists with a platform to compare the properties of these small RNAs between these four mosquitoes and the most common insect used for genetic experiments, the fruit fly Drosophila. Although previous studies looked at each mosquito species individually, this study is the first to allow comparisons between all four species.

“Although mosquitoes are related to Drosophila, they have very different genomes. In addition, mosquitoes bite people for blood meals that allow them to reproduce and, unfortunately, allow serious human pathogens like viruses and diseases like yellow fever virus, dengue to infect us Fever cause virus, Zika virus, and eastern equine encephalitis virus, “said author Nelson Lau, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

The researchers received cell cultures and dissected samples of the mosquito species Anopheles gambiae, Culex quinquefasciatus, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. They extracted and purified the small RNA molecules, created libraries for high-throughput sequencing, and then developed a special bioinformatics platform to enable thorough genomic analysis of these small RNAs. They offer all of this analysis on a database website accessible to the public at

The four species of mosquitoes have global effects on human health. Anopheles is the primary vector for the parasite that causes malaria, but it is not known to carry many viruses. In contrast, it is known that Culex and Aedes mosquitoes transmit viruses between people when mosquito bites occur. However, it is not yet known why there is this difference between mosquito species for this ability to spread viruses.

According to the researchers, this study will enable better biochemical studies in mosquito cells. “If we find weaknesses in mosquitos’ tiny RNA pathways that make them more intolerant of viruses, they may not be able to transmit the virus from one human bite to the next human victim.”

This study was a collaboration between the Lau laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry and the laboratories of John Connor and Tonya Colpitts of the BU’s National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory (NEIDL), as well as many other mosquito biologists in the US and UK.

The results appear online in the journal Genome Research.

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Materials provided by Boston University School of Medicine. Note: the content can be edited by style and length.

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