Objective To evaluate how stress at the larval stage alters adult mosquito performance and susceptibility to viral infection. Methods We used a model system consisting of Sindbis virus (SINV) and the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. Larvae were either reared under optimal conditions (control) or exposed to one of four types of stressors; suboptimal nutrients, starvation, elevated temperature, and a low dose of the insecticide malathion and adult females were fed SINV infectious blood meal. Differential expressions of stress, immune-specific and detoxification genes was measured in fourth instar larvae (HSP70, HSP83, cecropin, defensin, transferrin and CYP6Z6) and 3-day-old females (cecropin, defensin, transferrin) to identify plausible molecular mechanisms associated with mosquito response to stress. Results There were stress-specific variations in mosquito performance (survival, development time, female size), but all stressors had a consistent effect of significantly increasing susceptibility to viral infection and dissemination relative to the controls. Three genes were up-regulated in fourth instar larvae exposed to temperature stress (cecropin, defensin and CYP6Z6) compared to single genes in suboptimal nutrient (cecropin) and malathion (transferrin) stress treatments and down-regulation of all the six genes in starvation treatments. In adult samples, transferrin was up-regulated in all but starvation treatments while defensin was up-regulated in starvation and temperature stress treatments. Conclusions Stress during larval development may cause alterations in adult mosquito phenotype and immunity that can increase their susceptibility to pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-964
Number of pages10
JournalTropical Medicine and International Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011


  • Aedes aegypti
  • Arbovirus
  • Environmental stress
  • Sindbis
  • Vector competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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