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Functional validation of the carbon dioxide receptor genes in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes using RNA interference


Steven Whyard, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2N2, Canada. Fax: + 1 (204) 474 7588; e-mail:


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important long-range chemosensory cue used by blood-feeding female mosquitoes to find their hosts. The CO2 receptor in Drosophila melanogaster was previously determined to be a heterodimer comprised of two gustatory receptor (Gr) proteins, DmGr21a and DmGr63a. In the mosquito Aedes aegypti, two putative orthologous genes, AaGr1 and AaGr3, were identified in the genome database, along with an apparent paralogue of AaGr1, AaGr2. In this study, RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene knockdown of either AaGr1 or AaGr3 resulted in a loss of CO2 sensitivity in both male and female mosquitoes, suggesting that these two proteins, like the Drosophila orthologues, function as a heterodimer. RNAi-mediated knockdown of AaGr2 expression had no impact on CO2 reception. All three Gr genes were expressed in the maxillary palps of both Ae. aegypti and the West Nile virus vector mosquito, Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus. Interestingly, expression of the two CO2 receptor genes was not equivalent in the two sexes and the implications of differential sex expression of the CO2 receptor in different species are discussed. The functional identification of the CO2 receptor in a mosquito could prove invaluable in the strategic design of compounds that disrupt the mosquito's ability to find hosts.