USC Aiken Professors Tackle Malaria
Aiken, SC (05/20/2019) — The current edition of the Genetics Society of America's research journal, G3: Genes, Genomes and Genetics, features the work of two University of South Carolina Aiken professors and their co-researchers at Kansas State University.
Drs W. Bart Bryant and Mary Mills explored mosquito physiology at the molecular level in an effort to aide future work on malaria management, where "malaria continues to be a major global health problem," according to the duo.
"Their findings are crucial to this body of research, which truly could have a worldwide impact," said Dr. Chad Leverette, interim dean of the College of Sciences and Engineering at USC Aiken.
"The global health community can benefit from their very relevant research. USC Aiken is committed to faculty and student research, and we are extremely proud to have Dr. Bryant and Dr. Mills among our faculty in the department of biology and geology."
This research was completed with colleagues Drs. K. Michel and B. Olson at Kansas State University, where both Mills and Bryant taught before coming to USC Aiken. This work was sponsored by grants awarded to Bryant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The professors co-wrote their G3 article: "Small RNA-Seq Analysis Reveals miRNA Expression Dynamics Across Tissues in the Malaria Vector, Anopheles gambiae," which was published online in March and is currently included in the May issue of G3.
"The female mosquito plays a critical role in malaria transmission, through repeated blood-feeding cycles, which are needed in order for her to produce eggs. Blood-feeding, egg production, and malaria transmission cause huge changes to the physiology of the mosquito.
"The physiology of the female mosquito is controlled by gene expression, which determines her ability to reproduce and transmit malaria. In addition, mosquito gene expression is tightly regulated by small nucleotide sequences, called microRNAs (miRNAs). miRNAs can be expressed throughout an organism or only expressed in a specific tissue, which gives rise to the overall function of that tissue.
"If we can understand how the mosquito tissues involved in reproduction and immunity are regulated by miRNAs, we can better develop effective approaches to control mosquito populations and further control malaria. To fill this critical gap in knowledge, we determined the global miRNA repertoire in mosquito tissues required for immunity and reproduction", said Bryant and Mills.
"Our results were quite exciting, as we identified multiple tissue-specific miRNAs and mapped each miRNA to the appropriate mosquito chromosome. This study provides a foundation for future work on gene expression in the malaria transmitting mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, and we are thrilled to continue this research at USC Aiken."