Molecular biology of mosquito vitellogenesis: from basic studies to genetic engineering of antipathogen immunity

Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Oct;32(10):1275-86. doi: 10.1016/s0965-1748(02)00090-5.


Elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying stage- and tissue-specific expression of genes activated by a blood meal is of great importance for current efforts directed towards utilizing molecular genetics to develop novel strategies of mosquito and pathogen control. Regulatory regions of such genes can be used to express anti-pathogen effector molecules in engineered vectors in a precise temporal and spatial manner, designed to maximally affect a pathogen. The fat body is a particularly important target for engineering anti-pathogen properties because in insects, it is a potent secretory tissue releasing its products to the hemolymph, an environment or a crossroad for most pathogens. Recently, we have provided proof of this concept by engineering stable transformant lines of Aedes aegypti mosquito, in which the regulatory region A. aegypti vitellogenin (Vg) gene activates high-level fat body-specific expression of a potent anti-bacterial factor, defensin, in response to a blood meal. Further study of the Vg gene utilizing Drosophila and Aedes transformation identified cis-regulatory sites responsible for state- and fat body-specific activation of this gene via a blood-meal-triggered cascade. These analyses revealed three regulatory regions in the 2.1-kb upstream portion of the Vg gene. The proximal region, containing binding sites to EcR/USP, GATA, C/EBP and HNF3/fkh, is required for the correct tissue- and stage-specific expression at a low level. The median region, carrying sites for early ecdysone response factors E74 and E75, is responsible for a stage-specific hormonal enhancement of the Vg expression. Finally, the distal GATA-rich region is necessary for extremely high expression levels characteristic to the Vg gene. Furthermore, our study showed that several transcription factors involved in controlling the Vg gene expression, are themselves targets of the blood meal-mediated regulatory cascade, thus greatly amplifying the effect of this cascade on the Vg gene. This research serves as the foundation for the future design of mosquito-specific expression cassettes with predicted stage- and tissue specificity at the desired levels of transgene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / genetics*
  • Aedes / immunology
  • Animals
  • Defensins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Genes, Regulator
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Insect Vectors / genetics*
  • Insect Vectors / immunology
  • Vitellogenesis / physiology
  • Vitellogenins / genetics*


  • Defensins
  • Vitellogenins
  • insect defensin A