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Open Access Research article

Plasmodium infection alters Anopheles gambiae detoxification gene expression

Rute C Félix1, Pie Müller234, Vera Ribeiro5, Hilary Ranson2 and Henrique Silveira1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Malária e Outras Doenças Tropicais, UEI Malária, Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Rua da Junqueira, 96, 1349-008 Lisbon, Portugal

2 Vector Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, L3 5QA, UK

3 Vector Control Unit, Medical Department, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland

4 University of Basel, CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

5 Centro de Biomedicina Molecular e Estrutural (CBME), Instituto de Biotecnologia e Bioengenharia (IBB-LA), Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:312  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-312

Published: 19 May 2010



Anopheles gambiae has been shown to change its global gene expression patterns upon Plasmodium infection. While many alterations are directly related to the mosquito's innate immune response, parasite invasion is also expected to generate toxic by-products such as free radicals. The current study aimed at identifying which loci coding for detoxification enzymes are differentially expressed as a function of Plasmodium berghei infection in midgut and fat body tissues.


Using a custom-made DNA microarray, transcript levels of 254 loci primarily belonging to three major detoxification enzyme families (glutathione S-transferases, cytochrome P450 monooxygenases and esterases) were compared in infected and uninfected mosquitoes both during ookinete invasion and the release of sporozoites into the hemocoel. The greatest changes in gene expression were observed in the midgut in response to ookinete invasion. Interestingly, many detoxification genes including a large number of P450s were down-regulated at this stage. In the fat body, while less dramatic, gene expression alterations were also observed and occurred during the ookinete invasion and during the release of sporozoites into the hemocoel. While most gene expression changes were tissue-related, CYP6M2, a CYP previously associated with insecticide resistance, was over-expressed both in the midgut and fat body during ookinete invasion.


Most toxicity-related reactions occur in the midgut shortly after the ingestion of an infected blood meal. Strong up-regulation of CYP6M2 in the midgut and the fat body as well as its previous association with insecticide resistance shows its broad role in metabolic detoxification.