Blood feeding induces hemocyte proliferation and activation in the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae Giles

William B. Bryant, Kristin Michel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Malaria is a global public health problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the mosquito Anopheles gambiae Giles serves as the major vector for the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum Welch. One determinant of malaria vector competence is the mosquito's immune system. Hemocytes are a critical component as they produce soluble immune factors that either support or prevent malaria parasite development. However, despite their importance in vector competence, understanding of their basic biology is just developing. Applying novel technologies to the study of mosquito hemocytes, we investigated the effect of blood meal on hemocyte population dynamics, DNA replication and cell cycle progression. In contrast to prevailing published work, the data presented here demonstrate that hemocytes in adult mosquitoes continue to undergo low basal levels of replication. In addition, blood ingestion caused significant changes in hemocytes within 24 h. Hemocytes displayed an increase in cell number, size, granularity and Ras-MAPK signaling as well as altered cell surface moieties. As these changes are well-known markers of immune cell activation in mammals and Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, we further investigated whether a blood meal changes the expression of hemocyte-derived immune factors. Indeed, hemocytes 24 h post-blood meal displayed higher levels of critical components of the complement and melanization immune reactions in mosquitoes. Taken together, this study demonstrates that the normal physiological process of a blood meal activates the innate immune response in mosquitoes. This process is likely in part regulated by Ras-MAPK signaling, highlighting a novel mechanistic link between blood feeding and immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1238-1245
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood meal
  • Immunology
  • Infectious disease
  • Innate immunity
  • Phenoloxidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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