Vector-pathogen interactions within the vector, Culicoides sonorensis



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Kansas State University


The biting midge, Culicoides sonorensis, vectors orbiviruses of economic importance, such as epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV). Due to the limitations in available molecular tools, critical Culicoides-orbivirus interactions underlying vector competence remain unclear. To provide a foundation for the study of midge-EHDV interactions, RNA interference (RNAi) was developed as a reverse genetic tool, and EHDV-2 infection dynamics were determined within C. sonorensis. To develop RNAi, exogenous double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) was injected into C. sonorensis adults specific to the C. sonorensis inhibitor of apoptosis protein 1 (CsIAP1) ortholog (dsCsIAP1). A significant decrease in CsIAP1 transcripts was observed in whole midges, with highest reduction in the midgut. In addition, dsCsIAP1-injected midges had increased mortality, a loss of midgut tissue integrity, and increased caspase activity. The longevity and midgut phenotypes were partially reversed by the co-injection of dsRNA specific to the C. sonorensis initiator caspase Dronc ortholog and CsIAP1. These results demonstrated that RNAi can be achieved in the midge midgut through injection of target dsRNAs into the hemolymph. Furthermore, the time course of EHDV-2 infection within C. sonorensis was characterized. EHDV-2 infection was observed in the midgut and secondary tissues, including the salivary glands, by 5 days post-feeding (dpf). These data are consistent with dissemination of EHDV-2 to secondary susceptible tissues throughout the midge via the hemolymph and indicate that virus transmission by C. sonorensis may occur as early as 5 dpf. This work provides a foundation for the future study of Culicoides-orbivirus interactions, including the antiviral role of RNAi at the midgut barrier.



Culicoides sonorensis, Biting midge, Vector, Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus, RNAi, Apoptosis

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Doctor of Philosophy


Division of Biology

Major Professor

Kristin Michel