Several mosquito species within the genus Anopheles are vectors for human malaria, and the spread of this disease is driven by the propensity of certain species to feed preferentially on humans. The study of olfaction in mosquitoes is important to understand dynamics of host-seeking and host-selection; however, the majority of these studies focus on Anopheles gambiae or An. coluzzii, both vectors of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. Other malaria vectors may recognize different chemical cues from potential hosts; therefore, in this study, we investigated An. stephensi, the south Asian malaria mosquito. We specifically focused on the mouthparts (primarily the maxillary palp and labella) that have been much less investigated compared to the antennae but are also important for host-seeking. To provide a broad view of chemoreceptor expression, RNAseq was used to examine the transcriptomes from the mouthparts of host-seeking females, blood-fed females, and males. Notably, AsOr8 had a high transcript abundance in all transcriptomes and was, therefore, cloned and expressed in the Drosophila empty neuron system. This permitted characterization with a panel of odorants that were selected, in part, for their presence in the human odor profile. The responsiveness of AsOr8 to odorants was highly similar to An. gambiae Or8 (AgOr8), except for sulcatone, which was detected by AsOr8 but not AgOr8. Subtle differences in the receptor sensitivity to specific odorants may provide clues to species- or strain-specific approaches to host-seeking and host selection. Further exploration of the profile of An. stephensi chemosensory proteins may yield a better understanding of how different malaria vectors navigate host-finding and host-choice.
Keywords: chemoreceptor; labellum; maxillary palpi; mouthparts; odorant receptors; sulcatone; transcriptome.