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The piRNA Pathway and Transposon Control in the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles stephensi

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 4.0 license

The ability of transposons to mobilize to new places in a genome enables them to introgress rapidly into populations. Transposons have been used as tools in mosquitoes to genetically transform a number of species including Anopheles stephensi, a vector of human malaria. These mobile genetic elements also have been proposed as tools to drive anti-pathogen effector genes into wild mosquito populations to replace pathogen-susceptible insects with those engineered genetically to be resistant to or unable to transmit a pathogen. The piRNA pathway has been characterized recently in the germ-line of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and is responsible for down-regulating transposon mobility. In order to use transposons effectively for vector and disease control, we need an understanding of the biology of the interplay between mosquitoes and synthetic transposon constructs. Presented here are: 1) evidence that components of the piRNA pathway are present in An. stephensi and expressed in a manner spatially and temporally appropriate for transposon control; 2) a proof-of-principle for a synthetic autonomous transposon-based construct, showing that exogenous genes can be encoded to self-mobilize; and 3) an investigation into a link between stress, transposon mobility and the piRNA pathway.

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