The Aedes aegypti mosquito is a significant public health threat, as it is the main vector of dengue and chikungunya viruses. Disease control efforts could be enhanced through reproductive manipulation of these vectors. Previous work has revealed a relationship between male seminal fluid proteins transferred to females during mating and female post-mating physiology and behavior. To better understand this interplay, we used short-read RNA sequencing to identify gene expression changes in the lower reproductive tract of females in response to mating. We characterized mRNA expression in virgin and mated females at 0, 6 and 24 hours post-mating (hpm) and identified 364 differentially abundant transcripts between mating status groups. Surprisingly, 60 transcripts were more abundant at 0hpm compared to virgin females, suggesting transfer from males. Twenty of these encode known Ae. aegypti seminal fluid proteins. Transfer and detection of male accessory gland-derived mRNA in females at 0hpm was confirmed by measurement of eGFP mRNA in females mated to eGFP-expressing males. In addition, 150 transcripts were up-regulated at 6hpm and 24hpm, while 130 transcripts were down-regulated at 6hpm and 24hpm. Gene Ontology (GO) enrichment analysis revealed that proteases, a protein class broadly known to play important roles in reproduction, were among the most enriched protein classes. RNAs associated with immune system and antimicrobial function were also up-regulated at 24hpm. Collectively, our results suggest that copulation initiates broad transcriptome changes across the mosquito female reproductive tract, “priming” her for important subsequent processes of blood feeding, egg development and immune defense. Our transcriptome analysis provides a vital foundation for future studies of the consequences of mating on female biology and will aid studies seeking to identify specific gene families, molecules and pathways that support key reproductive processes in the female mosquito.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases