Endogenous non-retroviral elements in genomes of Aedes mosquitoes and vector competence

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2019;8(1):542-555. doi: 10.1080/22221751.2019.1599302.


Recent extensive (re)emergences of arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) such as chikungunya (CHIKV), zika (ZIKV) and dengue (DENV) viruses highlight the role of the epidemic vectors, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, in their spreading. Differences of vector competence to arboviruses highlight different virus/vector interactions. While both are highly competent to transmit CHIKV (Alphavirus,Togaviridae), only Ae. albopictus is considered as a secondary vector for DENV (Flavivirus, Flaviviridae). Among other factors such as environmental temperature, mosquito antiviral immunity and microbiota, the presence of non-retroviral integrated RNA virus sequences (NIRVS) in both mosquito genomes may modulate the vector competence. Here we review the current knowledge on these elements, highlighting the mechanisms by which they are produced and endogenized into Aedes genomes. Additionally, we describe their involvement in antiviral immunity as a stimulator of the RNA interference pathways and in some rare cases, as producer of viral-interfering proteins. Finally, we mention NIRVS as a tool for understanding virus/vector co-evolution. The recent discovery of endogenized elements shows that virus/vector interactions are more dynamic than previously thought, and genetic markers such as NIRVS could be one of the potential targets to reduce arbovirus transmission.

Keywords: NIRVS; arboviral diseases; vector competence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / genetics*
  • Aedes / immunology
  • Aedes / physiology
  • Aedes / virology
  • Animals
  • Arboviruses / genetics
  • Arboviruses / physiology
  • Chikungunya virus / genetics
  • Chikungunya virus / physiology
  • Dengue Virus / genetics
  • Dengue Virus / physiology
  • Genome, Insect*
  • Humans
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / immunology
  • Mosquito Vectors / genetics*
  • Mosquito Vectors / immunology
  • Mosquito Vectors / physiology
  • Mosquito Vectors / virology
  • Retroelements*


  • Insect Proteins
  • Retroelements

Grant support

This study was supported by the Institut Pasteur, the French Government’s Investissement d’Avenir programme, Laboratoire d’Excellence “Integrative Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases” (http://www.agence-nationale-recherche.fr/ProjetIA-10-LABX-0062) [grant number ANR-10-LABX-62-IBEID to A-BF], the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under ZIKAlliance (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/207455/factsheet/en) [grant agreement no. 734548 to A-BF], and the European Research Council (https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/203246/reporting/en) [grant agreement no. 682394 - NIRV_HOST_INT to VH and MB].