There is a ‘Shockingly Weird’ Reason Mosquitoes Always Seem to Find Us, Says Study : ScienceAlert


The relentless accuracy with which some mosquito species hunt humans may be the result of their bizarrely wired olfactory system, which has a built-in backup for detecting human odors.

Mosquitoes can produce CO. to feel2 or sweat that strays from humans using unique chemoreceptors in their antennae and the maxillary palp, a connected sensory appendage of insects.

A new study led by researchers from Boston University and Rockefeller University explains why mosquitoes can perceive us so well, even when researchers genetically disable human-specific chemoreceptors.

According to the study, at least one mosquito species, Aedes aegyptianhas a very different way of organizing its olfactory system compared to most animals.

Using CRISPR as a gene-editing tool, the researchers developed mosquitoes whose olfactory neurons would express fluorescent proteins and glow under a microscope when certain scents were nearby. This allowed the researchers to see how different scents stimulated the olfactory system.

It appears that A. aegyptic connects several olfactory sensory receptors to one neuron, a process called co-expression.

According to this team, this overturns a core principle of olfactory science, which states that each neuron has only one chemoreceptor.

“This is shockingly weird,” says neuroscientist and senior author Meg Younger of Boston University. “It’s not what we expected.”

“The central dogma in olfaction is that sensory neurons, for us in our nose, each express one type of olfactory receptor,” says Younger.

This axiom applies to the honey bee (Apis mellifera), the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta), and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), all of which have approximately the same number of chemosensory receptors as olfactory glomeruli. (Glomeruli are spherical structures in the brain that receive olfactory signals.)

In A. aegyptichowever, there are at least twice as many receptors as glomeruli, a “striking mismatch,” the researchers write.

The results indicate an unconventional olfactory system that co-expresses multiple sensory receptors in individual neurons.

“The redundancy provided by an olfactory system … may increase the robustness of mosquitoes’ olfactory system and explain our long-standing inability to interfere with mosquitoes’ detection of humans,” the researchers conclude.

The appeal of a blood meal is strong, as female mosquitoes must feed on human or animal blood to reproduce.

A long-term goal of the research is to create improved mosquito repellents that effectively hide human odor or develop attractants that distract mosquitoes from their meal.

Mosquitoes’ talent for locating humans makes mosquitoes productive vectors for viral diseases such as dengue, zika, yellow a feverand chikungunya. Collectively, these viruses kill about 700,000 people each year.

“If we learn how smell is encoded in their olfactory system, we can make compounds that are more effective based on their biology,” Younger says.

This article was published in Cell.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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