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Insulin receptor knockdown blocks filarial parasite development and alters egg production in the southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus
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Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a painful and profoundly disfiguring disease. Wuchreria bancrofti (Wb) is responsible for >90% of infections and the remainder are caused by Brugia spp. Mosquitoes of the genera Culex (in urban and semi-urban areas), Anopheles (in rural areas of Africa and elsewhere), and Aedes (in Pacific islands) are the major vectors of W. bancrofti. A preventive chemotherapy called mass drug administration (MDA), including albendazole with ivermectin or diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC) is used in endemic areas. Vector control strategies such as residual insecticide spraying and long-lasting insecticidal nets are supplemental to the core strategy of MDA to enhance elimination efforts. However, increasing insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and drug resistance in parasite limit the effectiveness of existing interventions, and new measures are needed for mosquito population control and disruption of mosquito-parasite interactions to reduce transmission. Mosquito insulin signaling regulates nutrient metabolism and has been implicated in reduced prevalence and intensity of malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, infection in mosquitoes. Currently no data are available to assess how insulin signaling in mosquitoes affects the development of multi-cellular parasites, such as filarial nematodes. Here, we show that insulin receptor knockdown in blood fed C. quinquefasciatus, the major vector of Wb in India, completely blocks the development of filarial nematode parasite to the infective L3 stage, and results in decreased ecdysteroid production and trypsin activity leading to fewer mosquito eggs. These data indicate that a functional mosquito insulin receptor (IR) is necessary for filarial parasite development and mosquito reproduction. Therefore, insulin signaling may represent a new target for the development of vector control or parasite blocking strategies.