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Emerging roles of aquaporins in relation to the physiology of blood-feeding arthropods

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Aquaporins (AQPs) are proteins that span plasma membranes allowing the movement of water and small solutes into or out of cells. The type, expression levels and activity of AQPs play a major role in the relative permeability of each cell to water or other solutes. Research on arthropod AQPs has expanded in the last 10 years due to the completion of several arthropod genome projects and the increased availability of genetic information accessible through other resources such as de novo transcriptome assemblies. In particular, there has been significant advancement in elucidating the roles that AQPs serve in relation to the physiology of blood-feeding arthropods of medical importance. The focus of this review is upon the significance of AQPs in relation to hematophagy in arthropods. This will be accomplished via a narrative describing AQP functions during the life history of hematophagic arthropods that includes the following critical phases: (1) Saliva production necessary to blood feeding, (2) Intake and excretion of water during blood digestion, (3) Reproduction and egg development and (4) Off-host environmental stress tolerance. The concentration on these phases will highlight known vulnerabilities in the biology of hematophagic arthropods that could be used to develop novel control strategies as well as research topics that have yet to be examined.

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