Mosquito metallomics reveal copper and iron as critical factors for Plasmodium infection

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021 Jun 23;15(6):e0009509. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009509. eCollection 2021 Jun.


Iron and copper chelation restricts Plasmodium growth in vitro and in mammalian hosts. The parasite alters metal homeostasis in red blood cells to its favor, for example metabolizing hemoglobin to hemozoin. Metal interactions with the mosquito have not, however, been studied. Here, we describe the metallomes of Anopheles albimanus and Aedes aegypti throughout their life cycle and following a blood meal. Consistent with previous reports, we found evidence of maternal iron deposition in embryos of Ae. aegypti, but less so in An. albimanus. Sodium, potassium, iron, and copper are present at higher concentrations during larval developmental stages. Two An. albimanus phenotypes that differ in their susceptibility to Plasmodium berghei infection were studied. The susceptible white stripe (ws) phenotype was named after a dorsal white stripe apparent during larval stages 3, 4, and pupae. During larval stage 3, ws larvae accumulate more iron and copper than the resistant brown stripe (bs) phenotype counterparts. A similar increase in copper and iron accumulation was also observed in the susceptible ws, but not in the resistant bs phenotype following P. berghei infection. Feeding ws mosquitoes with extracellular iron and copper chelators before and after receiving Plasmodium-infected blood protected from infection and simultaneously affected follicular development in the case of iron chelation. Unexpectedly, the application of the iron chelator to the bs strain reverted resistance to infection. Besides a drop in iron, iron-chelated bs mosquitoes experienced a concomitant loss of copper. Thus, the effect of metal chelation on P. berghei infectivity was strain-specific.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / growth & development
  • Anopheles / metabolism*
  • Anopheles / parasitology*
  • Blood / metabolism
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Malaria / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Phenanthrolines / pharmacology
  • Plasmodium berghei / physiology


  • Chelating Agents
  • Phenanthrolines
  • Copper
  • Iron

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.