Mosquito midguts and malaria: cell biology, compartmentalization and immunology


: M. M. A. Whitten, UPR 9022 du CNRS, Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, 15 rue René Descartes, F-67084 Strasbourg Cedex, France. Tel.: +33 388417096; Fax: +33 388606922 (e-mail:


The malaria parasite Plasmodium has an absolute requirement for both a vertebrate and a mosquito host in order to complete its life cycle, and its interactions with the latter provide the focus for this review. The mosquito midgut represents one of the most challenging environments for the survival and development of Plasmodium, and is thus also one of the most attractive sites for novel targeted malaria control strategies. During their attempts to cross the midgut epithelium en route to the salivary glands, motile ookinetes are swiftly detected and labelled by mosquito recognition factors and targeted for destruction by a variety of immune responses that recruit killing factors both from the midgut and from other tissues in the surrounding body cavity. The exact interplay between these factors and the parasite is highly species- and strain-specific, as are the timing and the route of parasite invasion. These features are paramount to determining the success of the infection and the vector competence of the mosquito. Here we discuss recent advances in genomic analyses, coupled with detailed microscopical investigations, which are helping to unravel the identity and roles of the major players of these complex systems.