Molecular Profiling of Phagocytic Immune Cells in Anopheles gambiae Reveals Integral Roles for Hemocytes in Mosquito Innate Immunity

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2016 Nov;15(11):3373-3387. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M116.060723. Epub 2016 Sep 13.


The innate immune response is highly conserved across all eukaryotes and has been studied in great detail in several model organisms. Hemocytes, the primary immune cell population in mosquitoes, are important components of the mosquito innate immune response, yet critical aspects of their biology have remained uncharacterized. Using a novel method of enrichment, we isolated phagocytic granulocytes and quantified their proteomes by mass spectrometry. The data demonstrate that phagocytosis, blood-feeding, and Plasmodium falciparum infection promote dramatic shifts in the proteomic profiles of An. gambiae granulocyte populations. Of interest, large numbers of immune proteins were induced in response to blood feeding alone, suggesting that granulocytes have an integral role in priming the mosquito immune system for pathogen challenge. In addition, we identify several granulocyte proteins with putative roles as membrane receptors, cell signaling, or immune components that when silenced, have either positive or negative effects on malaria parasite survival. Integrating existing hemocyte transcriptional profiles, we also compare differences in hemocyte transcript and protein expression to provide new insight into hemocyte gene regulation and discuss the potential that post-transcriptional regulation may be an important component of hemocyte gene expression. These data represent a significant advancement in mosquito hemocyte biology, providing the first comprehensive proteomic profiling of mosquito phagocytic granulocytes during homeostasis blood-feeding, and pathogen challenge. Together, these findings extend current knowledge to further illustrate the importance of hemocytes in shaping mosquito innate immunity and their principal role in defining malaria parasite survival in the mosquito host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / immunology*
  • Anopheles / metabolism
  • Anopheles / parasitology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hemocytes / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Phagocytosis
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Insect Proteins