Pleiotropic Odorant-Binding Proteins Promote Aedes aegypti Reproduction and Flavivirus Transmission

mBio. 2021 Oct 12;12(5):e0253121. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02531-21. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Insect odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) are small soluble proteins that have been assigned roles in olfaction, but their other potential functions have not been extensively explored. Using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated disruption of Aedes aegypti Obp10 and Obp22, we demonstrate the pleiotropic contribution of these proteins to multiple processes that are essential for vectorial capacity. Mutant mosquitoes have impaired host-seeking and oviposition behavior, reproduction, and arbovirus transmission. Here, we show that Obp22 is linked to the male-determining sex locus (M) on chromosome 1 and is involved in male reproduction, likely by mediating the development of spermatozoa. Although OBP10 and OBP22 are not involved in flavivirus replication, abolition of these proteins significantly reduces transmission of dengue and Zika viruses through a mechanism affecting secretion of viral particles into the saliva. These results extend our current understanding of the role of insect OBPs in insect reproduction and transmission of human pathogens, making them essential determinants of vectorial capacity. IMPORTANCE Aedes aegypti is the major vector for many arthropod-borne viral diseases, such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya viruses. Previous studies suggested that odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) may have diverse physiological functions beyond the olfactory system in mosquitoes; however, these hypothesized functions have not yet been demonstrated. Here, we have used CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing to functionally delete (knock out) Obp10 and Obp22 in Aedes aegypti. We showed that disruption of Obp10 or Obp22 significantly impairs female and male reproductive capacity by adversely affecting blood feeding, oviposition, fecundity and fertility, and the development of spermatozoa. We also showed that disruption of Obp10 or Obp22 significantly reduces the transmission of dengue and Zika viruses through a mechanism affecting secretion of viral particles into the saliva. Thus, our study is not only significant in understanding the functions of OBPs in mosquito biology, but also shows that OBPs may represent potent flavivirus transmission-blocking targets. Our study is in this regard particularly timely and important from a translational and public health perspective.

Keywords: Aedes aegypti; OBP10; OBP22; Zika virus; blood feeding; dengue virus; feeding behavior; odorant-binding proteins; reproduction; virus transmission.