Discovery of Mosquito Saliva MicroRNAs during CHIKV Infection

Payal D. Maharaj, Steven G. Widen, Jing Huang, Thomas G. Wood, Saravanan Thangamani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Mosquito borne pathogens are transmitted to humans via saliva during blood feeding. Mosquito saliva is a complex concoction of many secretory factors that modulate the feeding foci to enhance pathogen infection and establishment. Multiple salivary proteins/factors have been identified/characterized that enhance pathogen infection. Here, we describe, for the first time, the identification of exogenous microRNAs from mosquito saliva. MicroRNAs are short, 18–24 nucleotide, non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression, and are generally intracellular. However, circulating miRNAs have been described from serum and saliva of humans. Exogenous miRNAs have not been reported from hematophagous arthropod saliva. We sought to identify miRNAs in the mosquito saliva and their role in Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) infection. Next generation sequencing was utilized to identify 103 exogenous miRNAs in mosquito saliva of which 31 miRNAs were previously unidentified and were designated novel. Several miRNAs that we have identified are expressed only in the CHIKV infected mosquitoes. Five of the saliva miRNAs were tested for their potential to regulated CHIKV infection, and our results demonstrate their functional role in the transmission and establishment of infection during blood feeding on the host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPLoS neglected tropical diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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