Gut-associated bacteria invade the midgut epithelium of Aedes aegypti and stimulate innate immunity and suppress Zika virus infection in cells

Shivanand Hegde, Denis Voronin, Aitor Casas-Sanchez, Miguel A. Saldaña, Eva Heinz, Alvaro Acosta-Serrano, Vsevolod L. Popov, Ashok K. Chopra, Grant Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbiota within mosquitoes influence nutrition, immunity, fecundity, and the capacity to transmit pathogens. Despite their importance, we have a limited understanding of host-microbiota interactions, especially at the cellular level. It is evident bacterial symbionts that are localized within the midgut also infect other organs within the mosquito; however, the route these symbionts take to colonize other tissues is unknown. Here, utilizing the gentamicin protection assay, we showed that the bacterial symbionts Cedecea and Serratia have the capacity to invade and reside intracellularly within mosquito cells. Symbiotic bacteria were found within a vacuole and bacterial replication was observed in mosquito cell by transmission electron microscopy, indicating bacteria were adapted to the intracellular milieu. Using gene silencing, we determined that bacteria exploited host factors, including actin and integrin receptors, to actively invade mosquito cells. As microbiota can affect pathogens within mosquitoes, we examined the influence of intracellular symbionts on Zika virus (ZIKV) infection. Mosquito cells harbouring intracellular bacteria had significantly less ZIKV compared to uninfected cells or cells exposed to non-invasive bacteria. Intracellular bacteria were observed to substantially upregulate the Toll and IMD innate immune pathways, providing a possible mechanism mediating these anti-viral effects. Examining mono-axenically infected mosquitoes using transmission electron and fluorescent microscopy revealed that bacteria occupied an intracellular niche in vivo. Our results provided evidence that bacteria that associate with the midgut of mosquitoes have intracellular lifestyles which likely have implications for mosquito biology and pathogen infection. This study expands our understanding of host-microbiota interactions in mosquitoes, which is important as symbiont microbes are being exploited for vector control strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Dec 6 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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