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Open Access Research article

Transcriptomics of differential vector competence: West Nile virus infection in two populations of Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus linked to ovary development

Dongyoung Shin, Ayse Civana, Carolina Acevedo and Chelsea T Smartt*

Author Affiliations

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida, 200 9th St. S.E., Vero Beach, FL 32962, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:513  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-513

Published: 22 June 2014



Understanding mechanisms that contribute to viral dissemination in mosquito vectors will contribute to our ability to interfere with the transmission of viral pathogens that impact public health. The expression of genes in two Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus populations from Florida with known differences in vector competence to West Nile virus (WNV) were compared using high throughput sequencing.


A total of 15,176 transcripts were combined for comparison of expression differences between the two populations and 118 transcripts were differentially expressed (p < 0.05). The fold change in expression of the differentially expressed genes ranged from -7.5 – 6.13. The more competent population for WNV (Gainesville) over expressed 77 genes and down regulated 44 genes, compared with the less competent population for WNV (Vero Beach). Also, splicing analysis identified 3 transcripts with significantly different splice forms between the two populations. The functional analysis showed that the largest proportion of transcripts was included in the catalytic activity and transporter activity groups except for those in the unknown group. Interestingly, the up- regulated gene set contained most of the catalytic activity function and the down- regulated gene set had a notable proportion of transcripts with transporter activity function. Immune response category was shown in only the down regulated gene set, although those represent a relatively small portion of the function. Several different vitellogenin genes were expressed differentially. Based on the RNAseq data analysis, ovary development was compared across the populations and following WNV infection. There were significant differences among the compared groups.


This study suggests that ovary development is correlated to vector competence in two Culex populations in Florida. Both populations control energy allocations to reproduction as a response to WNV. This result provides novel insight into the defense mechanism used by Culex spp. mosquitoes against WNV.

Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus; West Nile virus (WNV); High throughput RNA sequencing; Vector competence