Thorsellia anophelis is the dominant bacterium in a Kenyan population of adult Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes

ISME J. 2008 Jan;2(1):74-82. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2007.95. Epub 2007 Nov 1.


Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes are not known to harbor endosymbiotic bacteria. Here we show, using nucleic acid-based methods, that 16S rRNA gene sequences specific to a recently described mosquito midgut bacterium, Thorsellia anophelis, is predominant in the midgut of adult An. gambiae s.l. mosquitoes captured in residences in central Kenya, and also occurs in the aquatic rice paddy environment nearby. PCR consistently detected T. anophelis in the surface microlayer of rice paddies, which is also consistent with the surface-feeding behavior of A. gambiae s.l. larvae. Phylogenetic analysis of cloned environmental 16S rRNA genes identified four major Thorsellia lineages, which are closely affiliated to an insect endosymbiont of the genus Arsenophonus. Physiological characterizations support the hypothesis that T. anophelis is well adapted to the female anopheline midgut by utilizing blood and tolerating the alkaline conditions in this environment. The results suggest that aquatically derived bacteria such as T. anophelis can persist through mosquito metamorphosis and become well-established in the adult mosquito midgut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / growth & development
  • Anopheles / microbiology*
  • Culicidae / microbiology*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Enterobacteriaceae / classification
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Enterobacteriaceae / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Kenya
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S