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Genetic specificity and potential for local adaptation between dengue viruses and mosquito vectors

Louis Lambrechts12*, Christine Chevillon2, Rebecca G Albright1, Butsaya Thaisomboonsuk3, Jason H Richardson4, Richard G Jarman3 and Thomas W Scott1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Entomology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

2 Génétique et Evolution des Maladies Infectieuses, UMR CNRS-IRD 2724, Centre de Recherche IRD, 911 Avenue Agropolis, B.P. 64501, 34394 Montpellier Cedex 5, France

3 Department of Virology, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, 315/6 Rajvithi Road, Bangkok, 10400, Thailand

4 Department of Entomology, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, 315/6 Rajvithi Road, Bangkok, 10400, Thailand

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:160  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-160

Published: 9 July 2009



Several observations support the hypothesis that vector-driven selection plays an important role in shaping dengue virus (DENV) genetic diversity. Clustering of DENV genetic diversity at a particular location may reflect underlying genetic structure of vector populations, which combined with specific vector genotype × virus genotype (G × G) interactions may promote adaptation of viral lineages to local mosquito vector genotypes. Although spatial structure of vector polymorphism at neutral genetic loci is well-documented, existence of G × G interactions between mosquito and virus genotypes has not been formally demonstrated in natural populations. Here we measure G × G interactions in a system representative of a natural situation in Thailand by challenging three isofemale families from field-derived Aedes aegypti with three contemporaneous low-passage isolates of DENV-1.


Among indices of vector competence examined, the proportion of mosquitoes with a midgut infection, viral RNA concentration in the body, and quantity of virus disseminated to the head/legs (but not the proportion of infected mosquitoes with a disseminated infection) strongly depended on the specific combinations of isofemale families and viral isolates, demonstrating significant G × G interactions.


Evidence for genetic specificity of interactions in our simple experimental design indicates that vector competence of Ae. aegypti for DENV is likely governed to a large extent by G × G interactions in genetically diverse, natural populations. This result challenges the general relevance of conclusions from laboratory systems that consist of a single combination of mosquito and DENV genotypes. Combined with earlier evidence for fine-scale genetic structure of natural Ae. aegypti populations, our finding indicates that the necessary conditions for local DENV adaptation to mosquito vectors are met.