Biologists have learned to turn mosquitoes into eternal teenagers

(ORDO NEWS) — Next-generation insecticides will be able to act on “moulting hormones” and prevent mosquitoes from growing up, while not affecting other insects.

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals for humans: they carry many diseases, including very serious and even fatal ones, such as malaria.

However, it would be unwise, and hardly possible, to completely destroy all species that threaten people. Therefore, methods are required to keep their populations under control, and, if necessary, quickly suppress them.

In particular, biologists are trying to develop GM lines of mosquitoes that are unable to leave offspring, and then release them into the wild so that they compete with fertile insects and reduce their numbers.

Unfortunately, such experiments do not always end successfully, and additional tools are needed for reliable control. One of them can be substances that suppress molting and development of adults.

Scientists have figured out how to do this for mosquitoes without interfering with the normal development of other insects.

This is reported in an article by biologists from the University of California at Riverside (USA), published in the journal PNAS .

Molting and metamorphosis in all arthropods is controlled by ecdysone . This is a steroid hormone, and for a long time it was believed that, like other similar compounds, it freely penetrates through membranes, affecting the functioning of cells.

However, a few years ago, Naoki Yamanaka and his colleagues showed that the work of ecdysone in the body of fruit flies depends on transport proteins that actively carry the hormone across cell membranes – “ecdysone importers” (Ecdysone Importer, EcI).

Such carriers have been found in many other insects: their normal molting and development depend on the work of these proteins.

New work by Naoki Yamanaka’s team has shown that out of four different EcIs active in fruit flies, mosquitoes ( Aedes ) have only three active at different life stages.

And if you block the work of these three proteins, the flies continue to develop normally, relying on the work of the fourth, but the development of mosquitoes is disturbed.

Theoretically, this will allow populations of dangerous Aedes to be controlled without affecting other insects that have retained the “full set” of EcI. Scientists have already begun to search for substances that will have the desired effect on mosquito vectors of ecdysone.

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