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Blood feeding induces hemocyte proliferation and activation in the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae Giles
William B. Bryant, Kristin Michel


Malaria is a global public health problem especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the mosquito Anopheles gambiae Giles serves as the major vector for the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum Welch. One determinant of malaria vector competence is the mosquito's immune system. Hemocytes are a critical component as they produce soluble immune factors that either support or prevent malaria parasite development. However, despite their importance in vector competence, understanding of their basic biology is just developing. Applying novel technologies to the study of mosquito hemocytes, we investigated the effect of blood meal on hemocyte population dynamics, DNA replication, and cell cycle progression. In contrast to prevailing published work, data presented here demonstrate that hemocytes in adult mosquitoes continue to undergo low basal levels of replication. In addition, blood ingestion caused significant changes in hemocytes with 24 h. Hemocytes displayed an increase in cell number, size, granularity, and Ras-MAPK signaling as well as altered cell surface moieties. As these changes are well-known markers of immune cell activation in mammals and Drosophila melanogaster Meig., we further investigated if a blood meal changes the expression of hemocyte-derived immune factors. Indeed, hemocytes 24 h post blood meal displayed higher levels of critical components of the complement and melanization immune reactions in mosquitoes. Taken together, this study demonstrates that the normal physiological process of a blood meal activates the innate immune response in mosquitoes. This process is likely in part regulated by Ras-MAPK signaling, highlighting a novel mechanistic link between blood feeding and immunity.