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May 17, 2007

Unraveling the Genes of the Mosquito Genome

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Malaria Research Institute (JHMRI) are part of an international consortium of institutions participating in long-term studies to characterize the genome of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The Aedes aegypti mosquito spreads dengue, yellow fever and other diseases harmful to humans. The genome project is an effort to accelerate research of mosquito-borne diseases and sprout new methods for their eradication. The sequencing and annotation of the mosquito genome was presented in the May 17 online edition of Science Express.

As part of the research, George Dimopoulos, PhD, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and colleagues from JHMRI developed the first genome DNA microarray for the Aedes aegypti mosquito species. A microarray is a glass slide that contains bits of synthesized mosquito DNA. Using the microarray, Dimopoulos and his group checked to see when a segment DNA binds to the mosquito’s RNA. When it does, they know they’ve identified a gene. So far, his team has confirmed 9,143 of the mosquito’s 15,419 genes.

Dimopoulos likens identifying individual genes in the mosquito genome to deciphering words out of a book when there are no spaces or punctuation between letters and the language is partly unknown. “The microarray helps us to decode the language and determine if we have found a real gene,” said Dimopoulos.

In addition, the Hopkins team determined at which stage in the mosquito’s life cycle various genes are present and in which sex. The findings are significant since adult female mosquitoes are the ones that feed on blood and transmit disease.

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Lowe at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.