Mosquito MicroRNA

Identification and characterisation of microRNA expressed in the malaria vector
Anopheles funestus developmental stages by high throughput sequencing.

microRNAs (miRNAs) comprise a large family of non-coding RNA that modulate gene
expression by binding to their target mRNAs and influence fundamental cellular
processes in plants and animals. Although there are over 30 species of Anopheles
which transmit malaria in the world, miRNAs have so far only been identified in two
malaria vectors; the African vector (Anopheles gambiae) (1) and in the Asian vector
(Anopheles stephensi) (2), using direct cloning and/or computational methods. This
study will attempt to experimentally identify and computationally characterize the
miRNAs expressed in the different developmental stages of the second African vector
Anopheles funestus. Determining the biological functions of these regulatory
molecules in this mosquito will uncover novel approaches to control this
vector-borne disease by investigating the potential roles of miRNAs in processes
that are intimately linked to mosquito vectorial capacity.

References list:
1- Winter, F., Edaye, S., Hüttenhofer, A., and Brunel, C. (2007). Anopheles gambiae
miRNAs as actors of defence reaction against Plasmodium invasion. Nucleic Acids
Research, 35(20):6953–62.
2- Mead, E. A. and Tu, Z. (2008). Cloning, characterization, and expression of
from the Asian malaria mosquito, Anopheles stephensi. BMC Genomics, 9:244.

National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Sandringham, Johannesburg:
Professor Lizette Koekemoer
Hiba Abdallah

Identification of miRNA targets in Anopheles
In insects, thousands of miRNA genes have  been identified,  but  the function of
most  of these tiny RNAs remain  unknown  due  to the lack of experimental and
computational approaches to predict  their exact target  mRNA genes. We developed
the MosquitoTar  database for miRNA target genes in the  three  mosquito  insects;
Aedes aegypti   (Ae.  aegypti ), Anopheles gambiae (An. gambiae) and  Culex
quinquefasciatus (C. quinquefasciatus), which  incorporates prediction  and  the
functional analysis of these targets. The  proposed database will undoubtedly assist
and a useful resource for experimental miRNA researchers and computational biologist
to study miRNA regulation in the three  vector mosquitoes.Currently we are assessing
the accuracy of this tool using experimentally validated miRNA targets.

Lynley Abdoll (Student intern)
Pavan Rallabandi (Postdoc)
Peter van Heusden (Software developer)
Mushal Allam