Male mosquitoes find females thanks to their auditory system. British biologists identified the receptors needed to perceive these sounds. And they showed that they can be deactivated, thus preventing mating and reproduction. The strategy of deafening mosquitoes could be used to combat pests.
To find mates, mosquitoes gather in large numbers at dusk. Males rely on their fine hearing. It serves to distinguish females by sound against a background of loud general buzzing. Biologists at King’s College London identified something: auditory receptors that are especially active at these times. And they developed insecticides that precisely block them.
This would make it possible to control the population of these carriers of dangerous diseases. This is described in an article published in the journal Nature Communications. Marta Andres and her colleagues studied the ear of mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. It is a vector of malaria and other diseases whose range is constantly expanding. They captured the males directly in the process of mate searching and then isolated their RNA. Thus, they detected that their ear genes showed increased activity at that time. The scientists paid special attention to the octopamine gene receptors.
Octopamine plays many signaling roles in the nervous system of different animals. Therefore, biologists investigated their effect on insect hearing more closely. It turned out that these molecules control the elasticity of the sound-receiving hairs. And on this depends the perception of acoustic vibrations of a given frequency. When searching for females, the hearing apparatus of the males performs a fine “tuning” to better perceive their buzzing sounds.
Scientists demonstrated that this mechanism can be altered relatively easily. Octopamine receptors are inhibited by some insecticides such as amitraz. However, the authors plan to find new drugs with a more precise and selective action.
“The strategy of deafening mosquitoes would prevent mosquitoes from mating. Interrupting their reproduction would prevent future dangers to human health,” concludes Marta Andres.