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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A comprehensive gene expression atlas of sex- and tissue-specificity in the malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae

Dean A Baker1*, Tony Nolan2, Bettina Fischer3, Alex Pinder2, Andrea Crisanti2 and Steven Russell13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB1 3QA, UK

2 Department of Life Sciences, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Imperial College London, Imperial College Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK

3 Cambridge Systems Biology Centre, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QR, UK

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:296  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-296

Published: 7 June 2011



The mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, is the primary vector of human malaria, a disease responsible for millions of deaths each year. To improve strategies for controlling transmission of the causative parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, we require a thorough understanding of the developmental mechanisms, physiological processes and evolutionary pressures affecting life-history traits in the mosquito. Identifying genes expressed in particular tissues or involved in specific biological processes is an essential part of this process.


In this study, we present transcription profiles for ~82% of annotated Anopheles genes in dissected adult male and female tissues. The sensitivity afforded by examining dissected tissues found gene activity in an additional 20% of the genome that is undetected when using whole-animal samples. The somatic and reproductive tissues we examined each displayed patterns of sexually dimorphic and tissue-specific expression. By comparing expression profiles with Drosophila melanogaster we also assessed which genes are well conserved within the Diptera versus those that are more recently evolved.


Our expression atlas and associated publicly available database, the MozAtlas ( webcite), provides information on the relative strength and specificity of gene expression in several somatic and reproductive tissues, isolated from a single strain grown under uniform conditions. The data will serve as a reference for other mosquito researchers by providing a simple method for identifying where genes are expressed in the adult, however, in addition our resource will also provide insights into the evolutionary diversity associated with gene expression levels among species.