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Crop Biotech Update

International Consortium Releases Genome Sequence of Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes

December 3, 2014

The genomes of 16 Anopheles mosquito species from around the world have been sequenced by an international team of scientists led by Prof. Nora Besansky from the University of Notre Dame. Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria parasites, causing more than 600,000 deaths each year. However, only a few dozen of the almost 500 different Anopheles species can carry the parasite. Professor Besansky and her team of researchers looked into the genetic differences between the deadly parasite-transmitting species and their harmless cousins.

Species from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America were selected for the research. Gene evolution across the Anopheles revealed high rates of gene gain and loss, about five times higher than in fruit flies. Some genes, such as those involved in reproduction, or those that encode proteins secreted into the mosquito saliva, have very high rates of sequence evolution and are only found in subsets of the most closely-related species.

The newly available genome sequences also provided conclusive evidence of the true relations amongst several species that are very closely related to Anopheles gambiae,  but nevertheless show quite different traits that affect their vectorial capacity.

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