Transcriptional variation of sensory-related genes in natural populations of Aedes albopictus

BMC Genomics. 2020 Aug 7;21(1):547. doi: 10.1186/s12864-020-06956-6.


Background: The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is a highly dangerous invasive vector of numerous medically important arboviruses including dengue, chikungunya and Zika. In four decades it has spread from tropical Southeast Asia to many parts of the world in both tropical and temperate climes. The rapid invasion process of this mosquito is supported by its high ecological and genetic plasticity across different life history traits. Our aim was to investigate whether wild populations, both native and adventive, also display transcriptional genetic variability for functions that may impact their biology, behaviour and ability to transmit arboviruses, such as sensory perception.

Results: Antennal transcriptome data were derived from mosquitoes from a native population from Ban Rai, Thailand and from three adventive Mediterranean populations: Athens, Greece and Arco and Trento from Italy. Clear inter-population differential transcriptional activity was observed in different gene categories related to sound perception, olfaction and viral infection. The greatest differences were detected between the native Thai and the Mediterranean populations. The two Italian populations were the most similar. Nearly one million quality filtered SNP loci were identified.

Conclusion: The ability to express this great inter-population transcriptional variability highlights, at the functional level, the remarkable genetic flexibility of this mosquito species. We can hypothesize that the differential expression of genes, including those involved in sensory perception, in different populations may enable Ae. albopictus to exploit different environments and hosts, thus contributing to its status as a global vector of arboviruses of public health importance. The large number of SNP loci present in these transcripts represents a useful addition to the arsenal of high-resolution molecular markers and a resource that can be used to detect selective pressure and adaptive changes that may have occurred during the colonization process.

Keywords: Asian tiger mosquito; Chemoreception; Differential transcription; Invasive species; Single nucleotide polymorphisms.

MeSH terms

  • Aedes* / genetics
  • Animals
  • Arboviruses*
  • Italy
  • Mosquito Vectors / genetics
  • Thailand
  • Zika Virus Infection*
  • Zika Virus*