Mosquito Mating Plugs

Insects are known for transferring many substances during the mating process in addition to the sperm. Male insects can transfer nutrients, toxins, hormones and other substances that have physiological effects. In 1956, MT Gillies described a substance in Anopheles mosquitos that formed a “mating plug” or a gelatinous material that sealed the male sperm inside the female. Fifty-six years later, molecular biology has advanced and the components that create the plug have been identified by scientists.

Mosquito

The male transfers a protein to the female nicknamed “Plugin” which reacts with another enzyme (transglutaminase) to create the gelatinous plug. Artificially inhibiting the activity of the transglutaminase blocks formation of the plug and interferes with the ability of the female mosquito to store sperm and fertilize her eggs. This is an interesting observation of the basic biology of the mosquito. However, interesting observations sometimes lead to new insights into control of important pest species. In this case, further research and development may lead to “birth control for mosquitoes” that could be used to reduce their numbers and thereby reduce the spread of mosquito transmitted diseases.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

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