Development of RT-PCR Primers for the Examination of Cell Proliferation and Neural Gene Expression in Mosquitoes
The Zika virus (ZIKV) is a flavivirus carried by mosquitoes in the Aedes genus. The recent epidemic of Zika infection carried by Aedes aegypti in Brazil became a global matter when a significantly increased number of infants were found to have microcephaly and other birth defects in areas with ZIKV. In Texas, there have been 363 cases of Zika as of March 21, 2018, 9 of which were acquired by local mosquito-borne transmission. There have been recent studies that show that ZIKV infection has associations with reduced cell proliferation in mammalian neural tissue, and thus hypoplasia, which is found in microcephaly. It is still not clear if vectors are subject to similar influence. My goal is to explore whether ZIKV changes gene expression in brain tissue of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Because there has been little research on cell proliferation and neural development genes in mosquitoes, in this project, we seek to profile some of those genes. Therefore, I found studies that looked at those genes in Drosophila melanogaster and performed in silico searches for their homologs in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. 18 total primers were designed for 5 presumed Aedes aegypti homologs to allow for RT-PCR gene expression quantitation in mosquito brains. By utilizing various combinations of primers, we will be able to test for 32 amplicons. Testing of the primer efficacy and of gene expression is ongoing.