Chestnut Hill, MA (Scicasts) - The development and first use of a high-density SNP array for the malaria vector mosquito have established 400,000 genetic markers capable of revealing new insights into how the insect adapts to outsmart insecticides and other preventive measures, according to findings published in the current edition of the journal Science. The SNP array’s snapshot of the Anopheles gambiae genome can be used by scientists worldwide to advance public health efforts to contain and eliminate the deadly disease, according to Boston College biologist and senior author Marc A.T. Muskavitch.
The SNP array, a technology used to examine hundreds of thousands of features within DNA, detects single nucleotide polymorphisms and establishes genetic markers that can be used to understand the entire genome, particularly with respect to disease susceptibility and the likely success of insecticides and other mosquito-targeted interventions.
“We have developed a set of 400,000 markers with which we can study the genetics of the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae,” said Muskavitch, the DeLuca Professor of Biology at Boston College, who co-authored the paper with an international team of researchers. “Each marker is like a genetic signpost along the genome. These markers have revealed that when mosquito populations begin to separate from each other, it is a very complicated process that can involve hundreds of genes. The genes we have identified are genes that we can now investigate, to better understand their roles in the complexity of mosquito populations.”
The malaria mosquito is a member of a complex of seven species of mosquitoes, and within that complex are multiple populations that can display different traits and behaviours. Over many decades, modern public health efforts have sought to stop these mosquitoes, which spread the malaria parasite by taking blood meals from humans. Insecticides have been found to lose their effectiveness when the insects develop resistance to them. Muskavitch says the SNP array will yield powerful new scientific insights into these changes, which can support public health efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is most prevalent, and elsewhere throughout the world.