Open Access Research article

Expression plasticity of Phlebotomus papatasi salivary gland genes in distinct ecotopes through the sand fly season

Iliano V Coutinho-Abreu16, Rami Mukbel1, Hanafi A Hanafi2, Emad Y Fawaz2, Shabaan S El-Hossary2, Mariha Wadsworth1, Gwen Stayback1, Dilkushi A Pitts3, Mahmoud Abo-Shehada4, David F Hoel27, Shaden Kamhawi5, Marcelo Ramalho-Ortigão16 and Mary Ann McDowell1*

Author Affiliations

1 The Eck Institute for Global Health, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA

2 Research Sciences Directorate, U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3), PSC 452, Box 5000, FPO AE 09863-007, USA

3 Center for Research Computing and Department of Civil and Geological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA

4 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, 22110 Jordan

5 Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, NIAID-NIH, 12735 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20852, USA

6 Department of Entomology, Kansas State University, 123 W. Waters Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan KS, USA

7 Center for Disease Control, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA

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BMC Ecology 2011, 11:24  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-11-24

Published: 10 October 2011



Sand fly saliva can drive the outcome of Leishmania infection in animal models, and salivary components have been postulated as vaccine candidates against leishmaniasis. In the sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi, natural sugar-sources modulate the activity of proteins involved in meal digestion, and possibly influence vectorial capacity. However, only a handful of studies have assessed the variability of salivary components in sand flies, focusing on the effects of environmental factors in natural habitats. In order to better understand such interactions, we compared the expression profiles of nine P. papatasi salivary gland genes of specimens inhabiting different ecological habitats in Egypt and Jordan and throughout the sand fly season in each habitat.


The majority of investigated genes were up-regulated in specimens from Swaymeh late in the season, when the availability of sugar sources is reduced due to water deprivation. On the other hand, these genes were not up-regulated in specimens collected from Aswan, an irrigated area less susceptible to drought effects.


Expression plasticity of genes involved with vectorial capacity in disease vectors may play an important epidemiological role in the establishment of diseases in natural habitats.