Principal malaria vectors in Africa, An. gambiae and An. coluzzii, share an inversion polymorphism on the left arm of chromosome 2 (2La/2L+a) that is distributed non-randomly in the environment. Genomic sequencing studies support the role of strong natural selection in maintaining steep clines in 2La inversion frequency along environmental gradients of aridity, and physiological studies have directly implicated 2La in heat and desiccation tolerance, but the precise genetic basis and the underlying behavioral and physiological mechanisms remain unknown. As the insect cuticle is the primary barrier to water loss, differences in cuticle thickness and/or epicuticular waterproofing associated with alternative 2La arrangements might help explain differences in desiccation resistance.
In Burkina Faso, two chromosomal forms of the malaria vector Anopheles funestus, Folonzo and Kiribina, are distinguished by contrasting frequencies of shared polymorphic chromosomal inversions. Sympatric and synchronous populations of Folonzo and Kiribina mate assortatively, as indicated by a significant deficit of heterokaryotypes, and genetic associations among inversions on independently segregating chromosome arms. The present study aimed to assess, by intensive longitudinal sampling, whether sympatric Folonzo and Kiribina populations are characterized by behavioural differences in key malaria vectorial parameters.
Divergent selection based on aquatic larval ecology is a likely factor in the recent isolation of two broadly sympatric and morphologically identical African mosquito species, the malaria vectors Anopheles gambiae and An. coluzzii. Population-based genome scans have revealed numerous candidate regions of recent positive selection, but have provided few clues as to the genetic mechanisms underlying behavioural and physiological divergence between the two species, phenotypes which themselves remain obscure. To uncover possible genetic mechanisms, we compared global transcriptional profiles of natural and experimental populations using gene-based microarrays. Larvae were sampled as second and fourth instars from natural populations in and around the city of Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon, where the two species segregate along a gradient of urbanization. Functional enrichment analysis of differentially expressed genes revealed that An. coluzzii--the species that breeds in more stable, biotically complex and potentially polluted urban water bodies--overexpresses genes implicated in detoxification and immunity relative to An. gambiae, which breeds in more ephemeral and relatively depauperate pools and puddles in suburbs and rural areas. Moreover, our data suggest that such overexpression by An. coluzzii is not a transient result of induction by xenobiotics in the larval habitat, but an inherent and presumably adaptive response to repeatedly encountered environmental stressors. Finally, we find no significant overlap between the differentially expressed loci and previously identified genomic regions of recent positive selection, suggesting that transcriptome divergence is regulated by trans-acting factors rather than cis-acting elements.
Saltwater tolerance is a trait that carries both ecological and epidemiological significance for Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit human malaria, as it plays a key role in determining their habitat use and ecological distribution, and thus their local contribution to malaria transmission. Here, we lay the groundwork for genetic dissection of this trait by quantifying saltwater tolerance in three closely related cryptic species and malaria vectors from the Afrotropical Anopheles gambiae complex that are known to differ starkly in their tolerance to salinity: the obligate freshwater species A. gambiae and A. coluzzii, and the saltwater-tolerant species A. merus. We performed detailed comparisons of survivorship under varying salinities, using multiple strains of A. gambiae, A. coluzzii and A. merus, as well as F1 progeny from reciprocal crosses of A. merus and A. coluzzii. Additionally, using immunohistochemistry, we compared the location of three ion regulatory proteins (Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase, carbonic anhydrase and Na(+)/H(+)-antiporter) in the recta of A. coluzzii and A. merus reared in freshwater or saline water. As expected, we found that A. merus survives exposure to high salinities better than A. gambiae and A. coluzzii. Further, we found that exposure to a salinity level of 15.85 g NaCl l(-1) is a discriminating dose that kills all A. gambiae, A. coluzzii and A. coluzzii-A. merus F1 larvae, but does not negatively impact the survival of A. merus. Importantly, phenotypic expression of saltwater tolerance by A. merus is highly dependent upon the developmental time of exposure, and based on immunohistochemistry, salt tolerance appears to involve a major shift in Na(+)/K+-ATPase localization in the rectum, as observed previously for the distantly related saline-tolerant species A. albimanus.
We report the imminent completion of a set of reference genome assemblies for 16 species of Anopheles mosquitoes. In addition to providing a generally useful resource for comparative genomic analyses, these genome sequences will greatly facilitate exploration of the capacity exhibited by some Anopheline mosquito species to serve as vectors for malaria parasites. A community analysis project will commence soon to perform a thorough comparative genomic investigation of these newly sequenced genomes. Completion of this project via the use of short next-generation sequence reads required innovation in both the bioinformatic and laboratory realms, and the resulting knowledge gained could prove useful for genome sequencing projects targeting other unconventional genomes.
Limitations in the ability of organisms to tolerate environmental stressors affect their fundamental ecological niche and constrain their distribution to specific habitats. Evolution of tolerance, therefore, can engender ecological niche dynamics. Forest populations of the afro-tropical malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae have been shown to adapt to historically unsuitable larval habitats polluted with decaying organic matter that are found in densely populated urban agglomerates of Cameroon. This process has resulted in niche expansion from rural to urban environments that is associated with cryptic speciation and ecological divergence of two evolutionarily significant units within this taxon, the molecular forms M and S, among which reproductive isolation is significant but still incomplete. Habitat segregation between the two forms results in a mosaic distribution of clinally parapatric patches, with the M form predominating in the centre of urban agglomerates and the S form in the surrounding rural localities. We hypothesized that development of tolerance to nitrogenous pollutants derived from the decomposition of organic matter, among which ammonia is the most toxic to aquatic organisms, may affect this pattern of distribution and process of niche expansion by the M form.
The association between fitness-related phenotypic traits and an environmental gradient offers one of the best opportunities to study the interplay between natural selection and migration. In cases in which specific genetic variants also show such clinal patterns, it may be possible to uncover the mutations responsible for local adaptation. The malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae, is associated with a latitudinal cline in aridity in Cameroon; a large inversion on chromosome 2L of this mosquito shows large differences in frequency along this cline, with high frequencies of the inverted karyotype present in northern, more arid populations and an almost complete absence of the inverted arrangement in southern populations. Here we use a genome resequencing approach to investigate patterns of population divergence along the cline. By sequencing pools of individuals from both ends of the cline as well as in the center of the cline- where the inversion is present in intermediate frequency- we demonstrate almost complete panmixia across collinear parts of the genome and high levels of differentiation in inverted parts of the genome. Sequencing of separate pools of each inversion arrangement in the center of the cline reveals large amounts of gene flux (i.e., gene conversion and double crossovers) even within inverted regions, especially away from the inversion breakpoints. The interplay between natural selection, migration, and gene flux allows us to identify several candidate genes responsible for the match between inversion frequency and environmental variables. These results, coupled with similar conclusions from studies of clinal variation in Drosophila, point to a number of important biological functions associated with local environmental adaptation.
The African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is polymorphic for chromosomal inversion 2La, whose frequency strongly correlates with degree of aridity across environmental gradients. Recent physiological studies have associated 2La with resistance to desiccation in adults and thermal stress in larvae, consistent with its proposed role in aridity tolerance. However, the genetic basis of these traits remains unknown. To identify genes that could be involved in the differential response to thermal stress, we compared global gene expression profiles of heat-hardened 2La or 2L+(a) larvae at three time points, for up to eight hours following exposure to the heat stress. Treatment and control time series, replicated four times, revealed a common and massive induction of a core set of heat-shock genes regardless of 2La orientation. However, clear differences between the 2La and 2L+(a) arrangements emerged at the earliest (0.25 h) time point, in the intensity and nature of the stress response. Overall, 2La was associated with the more aggressive response: larger numbers of genes were heat responsive and up-regulated. Transcriptionally induced genes were enriched for functions related to ubiquitin-proteasomal degradation, chaperoning and energy metabolism. The more muted transcriptional response of 2L+(a) was largely repressive, including genes involved in proteolysis and energy metabolism. These results may help explain the maintenance of the 2La inversion polymorphism in An. gambiae, as the survival benefits offered by high thermal sensitivity in harsh climates could be offset by the metabolic costs of such a drastic response in more equable climates.
The main Afrotropical malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto, is undergoing a process of sympatric ecological diversification leading to at least two incipient species (the M and S molecular forms) showing heterogeneous levels of divergence across the genome. The physically unlinked centromeric regions on all three chromosomes of these closely related taxa contain fixed nucleotide differences which have been found in nearly complete linkage disequilibrium in geographic areas of no or low M-S hybridization. Assays diagnostic for SNP and structural differences between M and S forms in the three centromeric regions were applied in samples from the western extreme of their range of sympatry, the only area where high frequencies of putative M/S hybrids have been reported. The results reveal a level of admixture not observed in the rest of the range. In particular, we found: i) heterozygous genotypes at each marker, although at frequencies lower than expected under panmixia; ii) virtually all possible genotypic combinations between markers on different chromosomes, although genetic association was nevertheless detected; iii) discordant M and S genotypes at two X-linked markers near the centromere, suggestive of introgression and inter-locus recombination. These results could be indicative either of a secondary contact zone between M and S, or of the maintenance of ancestral polymorphisms. This issue and the perspectives opened by these results in the study of the M and S incipient speciation process are discussed.
Ty3/gypsy elements represent one of the most abundant and diverse LTR-retrotransposon (LTRr) groups in the Anopheles gambiae genome, but their evolutionary dynamics have not been explored in detail. Here, we conduct an in silico analysis of the distribution and abundance of the full complement of 1045 copies in the updated AgamP3 assembly. Chromosomal distribution of Ty3/gypsy elements is inversely related to arm length, with densities being greatest on the X, and greater on the short versus long arms of both autosomes. Taking into account the different heterochromatic and euchromatic compartments of the genome, our data suggest that the relative abundance of Ty3/gypsy LTRrs along each chromosome arm is determined mainly by the different proportions of heterochromatin, particularly pericentric heterochromatin, relative to total arm length. Additionally, the breakpoint regions of chromosomal inversion 2La appears to be a haven for LTRrs. These elements are underrepresented more than 7-fold in euchromatin, where 33% of the Ty3/gypsy copies are associated with genes. The euchromatin on chromosome 3R shows a faster turnover rate of Ty3/gypsy elements, characterized by a deficit of proviral sequences and the lowest average sequence divergence of any autosomal region analyzed in this study. This probably reflects a principal role of purifying selection against insertion for the preservation of longer conserved syntenyc blocks with adaptive importance located in 3R. Although some Ty3/gypsy LTRrs show evidence of recent activity, an important fraction are inactive remnants of relatively ancient insertions apparently subject to genetic drift. Consistent with these computational predictions, an analysis of the occupancy rate of putatively older insertions in natural populations suggested that the degenerate copies have been fixed across the species range in this mosquito, and also are shared with the sibling species Anopheles arabiensis.
The African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is diversifying into ecotypes known as M and S forms. This process is thought to be promoted by adaptation to different larval habitats, but its genetic underpinnings remain elusive. To identify candidate targets of divergent natural selection in M and S, we performed genomewide scanning in paired population samples from Mali, followed by resequencing and genotyping from five locations in West, Central, and East Africa. Genome scans revealed a significant peak of M-S divergence on chromosome 3L, overlapping five known or suspected immune response genes. Resequencing implicated a selective target at or near the TEP1 gene, whose complement C3-like product has antiparasitic and antibacterial activity. Sequencing and allele-specific genotyping showed that an allelic variant of TEP1 has been swept to fixation in M samples from Mali and Burkina Faso and is spreading into neighboring Ghana, but is absent from M sampled in Cameroon, and from all sampled S populations. Sequence comparison demonstrates that this allele is related to, but distinct from, TEP1 alleles of known resistance phenotype. Experimental parasite infections of advanced mosquito intercrosses demonstrated a strong association between this TEP1 variant and resistance to both rodent malaria and the native human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Although malaria parasites may not be direct agents of pathogen-mediated selection at TEP1 in nature--where larvae may be the more vulnerable life stage--the process of adaptive divergence between M and S has potential consequences for malaria transmission.
Alternative arrangements of chromosome 2 inversions in Anopheles gambiae are important sources of population structure, and are associated with adaptation to environmental heterogeneity. The forces responsible for their origin and maintenance are incompletely understood. Molecular characterization of inversion breakpoints provides insight into how they arose, and provides the basis for development of molecular karyotyping methods useful in future studies.
Disruptive selection mediated by predation on aquatic immature stages has been proposed as a major force driving ecological divergence and fostering speciation between the M and S molecular forms of the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. In the dry savannahs of West Africa where both molecular forms co-occur, the S form thrives in temporary pools filled with rainwater, whereas the M form preferentially breeds in permanent freshwater habitats where predator pressure is higher. Here, we explored the proximal mechanisms by which predation may contribute to habitat segregation between molecular forms using progeny of female mosquitoes captured in Burkina Faso. We show that the S form suffers higher predation rates than the M form when simultaneously exposed to the widespread predator, Anisops jaczewskii in an experimental arena. Furthermore, behavioral plasticity induced by exposure to the predator was observed in the M form, but not in the S form, and may partially explain its habitat use and ecological divergence from the S form. We discuss the role of adaptive phenotypic plasticity in allowing successful colonization of a new ecological niche by the M form and highlight further research areas that need to be addressed for a better understanding of the ultimate mechanisms underlying ecological speciation in this pest of major medical importance.
Previous efforts to uncover the genetic underpinnings of ongoing ecological speciation of the M and S forms of the African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae revealed two centromere-proximal islands of genetic divergence on X and chromosome 2. Under the assumption of considerable ongoing gene flow between M and S, these persistently divergent genomic islands were widely considered to be speciation islands. In the course of microarray-based divergence mapping, we discovered a third centromere-associated island of divergence on chromosome 3, which was validated by targeted re-sequencing. To test for genetic association between the divergence islands on all three chromosomes, SNP-based assays were applied in four natural populations of M and S spanning West, Central and East Africa. Genotyping of 517 female M and S mosquitoes revealed nearly complete linkage disequilibrium between the centromeres of the three independently assorting chromosomes. These results suggest that despite the potential for inter-form gene flow through hybridization, actual (realized) gene flow between M and S may be substantially less than commonly assumed and may not explain most shared variation. Moreover, the possibility of very low gene flow calls into question whether diverged pericentromeric regions-characterized by reduced levels of variation and recombination-are in fact instrumental rather than merely incidental to the speciation process.
Phylogenetic analyses provide a framework for examining the evolution of morphological and molecular diversity, interpreting patterns in biogeography, and achieving a stable classification. The generic and suprageneric relationships within mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) are poorly resolved, making these subjects difficult to address.
Anopheles funestus is a principal vector of malaria across much of tropical Africa and is considered one of the most efficient of its kind, yet studies of this species have lagged behind those of its broadly sympatric congener, An. gambiae. In aid of future genomic sequencing of An. funestus, we explored the whole body transcriptome, derived from mixed stage progeny of wild-caught females from Mali, West Africa.
Previous studies of Anopheles funestus chromosomal inversion polymorphisms in Burkina Faso showed large departures from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and linkage disequilibrium among inversions located on different chromosomes, implying the existence of two taxonomic units ("chromosomal forms") with limited genetic flow. One chromosomal form, named Folonzo, is highly polymorphic for alternative rearrangements of 3Ra, 3Rb, 2Ra, and 3La; the other, Kiribina, is predominantly characterized by the standard arrangement of these inversions. To investigate the temporal distribution of these chromosomal forms, further collections were carried out in two villages near Ouagadougou where they are found in sympatry.
In the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae polymorphic chromosomal inversions may play an important role in adaptation to environmental variation. Recently, we used microarray-based divergence mapping combined with targeted resequencing to map nucleotide differentiation between alternative arrangements of the 2La inversion. Here, we applied the same technique to four different polymorphic inversions on the 2R chromosome of An. gambiae. Surprisingly, divergence was much lower between alternative arrangements for all 2R inversions when compared to the 2La inversion. For one of the rearrangements, 2Ru, we successfully mapped a very small region (approximately 100 kb) of elevated divergence. For the other three rearrangements, we did not identify any regions of significantly high divergence, despite ample independent evidence from natural populations of geographic clines and seasonal cycling, and stable heterotic polymorphisms in laboratory populations. If these inversions are the targets of selection as hypothesized, we suggest that divergence between rearrangements may have escaped detection due to retained ancestral polymorphism in the case of the youngest 2R rearrangements and to extensive gene flux in the older 2R inversion systems that segregate in both An. gambiae and its sibling species An. arabiensis.
Anopheles gambiae, the principal vector of malignant malaria in Africa, occupies a wide range of habitats. Environmental flexibility may be conferred by a number of chromosomal inversions non-randomly associated with aridity, including 2La. The purpose of this study was to determine the physiological mechanisms associated with the 2La inversion that may result in the preferential survival of its carriers in hygrically-stressful environments.
Speciation among members of the Anopheles gambiae complex is thought to be promoted by disruptive selection and ecological divergence acting on sets of adaptation genes protected from recombination by polymorphic paracentric chromosomal inversions. However, shared chromosomal polymorphisms between the M and S molecular forms of An. gambiae and insufficient information about their relationship with ecological divergence challenge this view. We used Geographic Information Systems, Ecological Niche Factor Analysis, and Bayesian multilocus genetic clustering to explore the nature and extent of ecological and chromosomal differentiation of M and S across all the biogeographic domains of Cameroon in Central Africa, in order to understand the role of chromosomal arrangements in ecological specialisation within and among molecular forms.
Ongoing lineage splitting within the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is compatible with ecological speciation, the evolution of reproductive isolation by divergent natural selection acting on two populations exploiting alternative resources. Divergence between two molecular forms (M and S) identified by fixed differences in rDNA, and characterized by marked, although incomplete, reproductive isolation is occurring in West and Central Africa. To elucidate the role that ecology and geography play in speciation, we carried out a countrywide analysis of An. gambiae M and S habitat requirements, and that of their chromosomal variants, across Burkina Faso.
The mosquito Anopheles gambiae is broadly distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa and this contributes to making it the most efficient vector of malaria on the continent. The pervasiveness of this species is hypothesized to originate in local adaptations facilitated by inversion polymorphisms. One inversion, named 2La, is strongly associated with aridity clines in West and Central Africa: while 2La is fixed in arid savannas, the 2L+a arrangement is predominantly found in the rainforest. Ability to survive high temperature exposure is an essential component of aridity tolerance, particularly in immature stages that are restricted to shallow puddles. Toward deciphering the role of the 2La inversion in local adaptation, the present investigation focused on variation in larval and pupal thermo-tolerance in two populations dissimilar solely in 2La arrangement.
VectorBase (http://www.vectorbase.org) is an NIAID-funded Bioinformatic Resource Center focused on invertebrate vectors of human pathogens. VectorBase annotates and curates vector genomes providing a web accessible integrated resource for the research community. Currently, VectorBase contains genome information for three mosquito species: Aedes aegypti, Anopheles gambiae and Culex quinquefasciatus, a body louse Pediculus humanus and a tick species Ixodes scapularis. Since our last report VectorBase has initiated a community annotation system, a microarray and gene expression repository and controlled vocabularies for anatomy and insecticide resistance. We have continued to develop both the software infrastructure and tools for interrogating the stored data.
Anopheles gambiae M and S are thought to be undergoing ecological speciation by adapting to different larval habitats. Toward an improved understanding of the genetic determinants and evolutionary processes shaping their divergence, we used a 400,000 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping array to characterize patterns of genomic differentiation between four geographically paired M and S population samples from West and Central Africa. In keeping with recent studies based on more limited genomic or geographic sampling, divergence was not confined to a few isolated "speciation islands." Divergence was both widespread across the genome and heterogeneous. Moreover, we find consistent patterns of genomic divergence across sampling sites and mutually exclusive clustering of M and S populations using genetic distances based on all 400,000 SNPs, implying that M and S are evolving collectively across the study area. Nevertheless, the clustering of local M and S populations using genetic distances based on SNPs from genomic regions of low differentiation is consistent with recent gene flow and introgression. To account for these data and reconcile apparent paradoxes in reported patterns of M-S genomic divergence and hybridization, we propose that extrinsic ecologically based postmating barriers vary in strength as environmental conditions fluctuate or change.
Anthropogenic habitat disturbance is a prime cause in the current trend of the Earths reduction in biodiversity. Here we show that the human footprint on the Central African rainforest, which is resulting in deforestation and growth of densely populated urban agglomerates, is associated to ecological divergence and cryptic speciation leading to adaptive radiation within the major malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae.
Chromosomal inversions are thought to confer a selective advantage in alternative habitats by protecting co-adapted alleles from recombination. The frequencies of two inversions (2La and 2Rb) of the afro-tropical malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae change gradually along geographical clines, increasing in frequency with degree of aridity. Such clines can result from gene flow and local selection acting upon alternative karyotypes along the cline, suggesting that these inversions may be associated with tolerance to xeric conditions. Since water loss represents a major challenge in xeric habitats, it can be supposed that genes inside these inversions are involved in water homeostasis. To test this hypothesis, we compared the desiccation resistance of alternative karyotypes from a colonised 2Rb/2La polymorphic population of A. gambiae from Cameroon. The strain included only the molecular form S, one of the genetic units marking incipient speciation in this taxon. Day-old mosquitoes of both sexes were assayed individually for time to death in a dry environment and the karyotype of each was determined post-mortem using molecular diagnostic assays for each inversion. In agreement with expectations based on their eco-geographical distribution, we found that 2La homokaryotypes survived significantly longer (1.3 hours) than the other karyotypes. However, there was weak support for the effect of 2Rb on desiccation resistance. Larger mosquitoes survived longer than smaller ones. Median survival of females was greater than males, but the effect of sex on desiccation resistance was weakly supported, indicating that differential survival was correlated to differences between sexes in average size. We found weak evidence for a heterotic effect of 2La karyotype on size in females. These results support the notion that genes located inside the 2La inversion are involved in water balance, contributing towards local adaptation of A. gambiae to xeric habitats, beyond the adaptive value conferred by a larger body size.
The question of sampling and spatial aggregation of malaria vectors is central to vector control efforts and estimates of transmission. Spatial patterns of anopheline populations are complex because mosquitoes habitats and behaviors are strongly heterogeneous. Analyses of spatially referenced counts provide a powerful approach to delineate complex distribution patterns, and contributions of these methods in the study and control of malaria vectors must be carefully evaluated.
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