Complex environmental drivers of immunity and resistance in malaria mosquitoes

Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Sep 18;280(1770):20132030. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2030. Print 2013 Nov 7.


Considerable research effort has been directed at understanding the genetic and molecular basis of mosquito innate immune mechanisms. Whether environmental factors interact with these mechanisms to shape overall resistance remains largely unexplored. Here, we examine how changes in mean ambient temperature, diurnal temperature fluctuation and time of day of infection affected the immunity and resistance of Anopheles stephensi to infection with Escherichia coli. We used quantitative PCR to estimate the gene expression of three immune genes in response to challenge with heat-killed E. coli. We also infected mosquitoes with live E. coli and ran bacterial growth assays to quantify host resistance. Both mosquito immune parameters and resistance were directly affected by mean temperature, diurnal temperature fluctuation and time of day of infection. Furthermore, there was a suite of complex two- and three-way interactions yielding idiosyncratic phenotypic variation under different environmental conditions. The results demonstrate mosquito immunity and resistance to be strongly influenced by a complex interplay of environmental variables, challenging the interpretation of the very many mosquito immune studies conducted under standard laboratory conditions.

Keywords: circadian rhythm; innate immunity; mosquito; resistance; temperature.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / genetics*
  • Anopheles / immunology*
  • Anopheles / microbiology
  • Cecropins / genetics
  • Cecropins / metabolism
  • Defensins / genetics
  • Defensins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors


  • Cecropins
  • Defensins
  • Insect Proteins
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase