Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit

Nairobi, Kenya

Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit

Nairobi, Kenya

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PubMed | Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Egerton University and University of the Western Cape
Type: Comparative Study | Journal: PLoS neglected tropical diseases | Year: 2016

For decades, odour-baited traps have been used for control of tsetse flies (Diptera; Glossinidae), vectors of African trypanosomes. However, differential responses to known attractants have been reported in different Glossina species, hindering establishment of a universal vector control tool. Availability of full genome sequences of five Glossina species offers an opportunity to compare their chemosensory repertoire and enhance our understanding of their biology in relation to chemosensation. Here, we identified and annotated the major chemosensory gene families in Glossina. We identified a total of 118, 115, 124, and 123 chemosensory genes in Glossina austeni, G. brevipalpis, G. f. fuscipes, G. pallidipes, respectively, relative to 127 reported in G. m. morsitans. Our results show that tsetse fly genomes have fewer chemosensory genes when compared to other dipterans such as Musca domestica (n>393), Drosophila melanogaster (n = 246) and Anopheles gambiae (n>247). We also found that Glossina chemosensory genes are dispersed across distantly located scaffolds in their respective genomes, in contrast to other insects like D. melanogaster whose genes occur in clusters. Further, Glossina appears to be devoid of sugar receptors and to have expanded CO2 associated receptors, potentially reflecting Glossinas obligate hematophagy and the need to detect hosts that may be out of sight. We also identified, in all species, homologs of Ir84a; a Drosophila-specific ionotropic receptor that promotes male courtship suggesting that this is a conserved trait in tsetse flies. Notably, our selection analysis revealed that a total of four gene loci (Gr21a, GluRIIA, Gr28b, and Obp83a) were under positive selection, which confers fitness advantage to species. These findings provide a platform for studies to further define the language of communication of tsetse with their environment, and influence development of novel approaches for control.

Obiero G.F.O.,Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit | Obiero G.F.O.,University of the Western Cape | Mireji P.O.,Egerton University | Nyanjom S.R.G.,Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology | And 3 more authors.
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases | Year: 2014

Tsetse flies use olfactory and gustatory responses, through odorant and gustatory receptors (ORs and GRs), to interact with their environment. Glossina morsitans morsitans genome ORs and GRs were annotated using homologs of these genes in Drosophila melanogaster and an ab initio approach based on OR and GR specific motifs in G. m. morsitans gene models coupled to gene ontology (GO). Phylogenetic relationships among the ORs or GRs and the homologs were determined using Maximum Likelihood estimates. Relative expression levels among the G. m. morsitans ORs or GRs were established using RNA-seq data derived from adult female fly. Overall, 46 and 14 putative G. m. morsitans ORs and GRs respectively were recovered. These were reduced by 12 and 59 ORs and GRs respectively compared to D. melanogaster. Six of the ORs were homologous to a single D. melanogaster OR (DmOr67d) associated with mating deterrence in females. Sweet taste GRs, present in all the other Diptera, were not recovered in G. m. morsitans. The GRs associated with detection of CO2 were conserved in G. m. morsitans relative to D. melanogaster. RNA-sequence data analysis revealed expression of GmmOR15 locus represented over 90% of expression profiles for the ORs. The G. m. morsitans ORs or GRs were phylogenetically closer to those in D. melanogaster than to other insects assessed. We found the chemoreceptor repertoire in G. m. morsitans smaller than other Diptera, and we postulate that this may be related to the restricted diet of blood-meal for both sexes of tsetse flies. However, the clade of some specific receptors has been expanded, indicative of their potential importance in chemoreception in the tsetse. © 2014 Obiero et al.

Benoit J.B.,Yale University | Benoit J.B.,University of Cincinnati | Hansen I.A.,New Mexico State University | Attardo G.M.,Yale University | And 7 more authors.
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases | Year: 2014

Tsetse flies undergo drastic fluctuations in their water content throughout their adult life history due to events such as blood feeding, dehydration and lactation, an essential feature of the viviparous reproductive biology of tsetse. Aquaporins (AQPs) are transmembrane proteins that allow water and other solutes to permeate through cellular membranes. Here we identify tsetse aquaporin (AQP) genes, examine their expression patterns under different physiological conditions (blood feeding, lactation and stress response) and perform functional analysis of three specific genes utilizing RNA interference (RNAi) gene silencing. Ten putative aquaporins were identified in the Glossina morsitans morsitans (Gmm) genome, two more than has been previously documented in any other insect. All organs, tissues, and body parts examined had distinct AQP expression patterns. Two AQP genes, gmmdripa and gmmdripb (= gmmaqp1a and gmmaqp1b) are highly expressed in the milk gland/fat body tissues. The whole-body transcript levels of these two genes vary over the course of pregnancy. A set of three AQPs (gmmaqp5, gmmaqp2a, and gmmaqp4b) are expressed highly in the Malpighian tubules. Knockdown of gmmdripa and gmmdripb reduced the efficiency of water loss following a blood meal, increased dehydration tolerance and reduced heat tolerance of adult females. Knockdown of gmmdripa extended pregnancy length, and gmmdripb knockdown resulted in extended pregnancy duration and reduced progeny production. We found that knockdown of AQPs increased tsetse milk osmolality and reduced the water content in developing larva. Combined knockdown of gmmdripa, gmmdripb and gmmaqp5 extended pregnancy by 4-6 d, reduced pupal production by nearly 50%, increased milk osmolality by 20-25% and led to dehydration of feeding larvae. Based on these results, we conclude that gmmDripA and gmmDripB are critical for diuresis, stress tolerance and intrauterine lactation through the regulation of water and/or other uncharged solutes. © 2014 Benoit et al.

Barribeau S.M.,ETH Zurich | Villinger J.,Seoul National University | Waldman B.,Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit | Waldman B.,Lincoln University at Christchurch
Biology Letters | Year: 2012

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes determine immune repertoires and social preferences of vertebrates. Immunological regulation of microbial assemblages associated with individuals influences their sociality, and should also affect their life-history traits. We exposed Xenopus laevis tadpoles to water conditioned by adult conspecifics. Then, we analysed tadpole growth, development and survivorship as a function of MHC class I and class II peptide-binding region amino acid sequence similarities between tadpoles and frogs that conditioned the water to which they were exposed. Tadpoles approached metamorphosis earlier and suffered greater mortality when exposed to immunogenetically dissimilar frogs. The results suggest that developmental regulatory cues, microbial assemblages or both are specific to MHC genotypes. Tadpoles may associate with conspecifics with which they share microbiota to which their genotypes are well adapted. © 2011 The Royal Society.

Villinger J.,Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit | Waldman B.,Lincoln University at Christchurch | Waldman B.,Seoul National University
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2012

Genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) that underlie the adaptive immune system may allow vertebrates to recognize their kin. True kin-recognition genes should produce signalling products to which organisms can respond. Allelic variation in the peptide-binding region (PBR) of MHC molecules determines the pool of peptides that can be presented to trigger an immune response. To examine whether these MHC peptides also might underlie assessments of genetic similarity, we tested whether Xenopus laevis tadpoles socially discriminate between pairs of siblings with which they differed in PBR amino acid sequences. We found that tadpoles (four sibships, n 1/4 854) associated preferentially with siblings with which they were more similar in PBR amino acid sequence. Moreover, the strength of their preference for a conspecific was directly proportional to the sequence similarity between them. Discrimination was graded, and correlated more closely with functional sequence differences encoded by MHC class I and class II alleles than with numbers of shared haplotypes. Our results thus suggest that haplotype analyses may fail to reveal fine-scale behavioural responses to divergence in functionally expressed sequences. We conclude that MHC-PBR gene products mediate quantitative social assessment of immunogenetic similarity that may facilitate kin recognition in vertebrates. © 2012 The Royal Society.

PubMed | Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit, Imperial College London, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and University of Perugia
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Medical and veterinary entomology | Year: 2016

Anopheles gambiae Giles sensu stricto (Diptera: Culicidae) is the major Afro-tropical vector of malaria. Novel strategies proposed for the elimination and eradication of this mosquito vector are based on the use of genetic approaches, such as the sterile insect technique (SIT). These approaches rely on the ability of released males to mate with wild females, and depend on the application of effective protocols to assess the swarming and mating behaviours of laboratory-reared insects prior to their release. The present study evaluated whether large semi-field enclosures can be utilized to study the ability of males from a laboratory colony to respond to natural environmental stimuli and initiate normal mating behaviour. Laboratory-reared males exhibited spatiotemporally consistent swarming behaviour within the study enclosures. Swarm initiation, peak and termination time closely tracked sunset. Comparable insemination rates were observed in females captured in copula in the semi-field cages relative to females in small laboratory cages. Oviposition rates after blood feeding were also similar to those observed in laboratory settings. The data suggest that outdoor enclosures are suitable for studying swarming and mating in laboratory-bred males in field-like settings, providing an important reference for future studies aimed at assessing the comparative mating ability of strains for SIT and other vector control strategies.

PubMed | Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
Type: Journal Article | Journal: mBio | Year: 2016

Insects commonly harbor facultative bacterial endosymbionts, such as Wolbachia and Spiroplasma species, that are vertically transmitted from mothers to their offspring. These endosymbiontic bacteria increase their propagation by manipulating host reproduction or by protecting their hosts against natural enemies. While an increasing number of studies have reported endosymbiont-mediated protection, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this protection. Here, we analyze the mechanisms underlying protection from parasitoid wasps in Drosophila melanogaster mediated by its facultative endosymbiont Spiroplasma poulsonii Our results indicate that S. poulsonii exerts protection against two distantly related wasp species, Leptopilina boulardi and Asobara tabida S. poulsonii-mediated protection against parasitoid wasps takes place at the pupal stage and is not associated with an increased cellular immune response. In this work, we provide three important observations that support the notion that S. poulsonii bacteria and wasp larvae compete for host lipids and that this competition underlies symbiont-mediated protection. First, lipid quantification shows that both S. poulsonii and parasitoid wasps deplete D. melanogaster hemolymph lipids. Second, the depletion of hemolymphatic lipids using the Lpp RNA interference (Lpp RNAi) construct reduces wasp success in larvae that are not infected with S. poulsonii and blocks S. poulsonii growth. Third, we show that the growth of S. poulsonii bacteria is not affected by the presence of the wasps, indicating that when S. poulsonii is present, larval wasps will develop in a lipid-depleted environment. We propose that competition for host lipids may be relevant to endosymbiont-mediated protection in other systems and could explain the broad spectrum of protection provided.Virtually all insects, including crop pests and disease vectors, harbor facultative bacterial endosymbionts. They are vertically transmitted from mothers to their offspring, and some protect their host against pathogens. Here, we studied the mechanism of protection against parasitoid wasps mediated by the Drosophila melanogaster endosymbiont Spiroplasma poulsonii Using genetic manipulation of the host, we provide strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that competition for host lipids underlies S. poulsonii-mediated protection against parasitoid wasps. We propose that lipid competition-based protection may not be restricted to Spiroplasma bacteria but could also apply other endosymbionts, notably Wolbachia bacteria, which can suppress human disease-causing viruses in insect hosts.

Ciosi M.,Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit | Ciosi M.,University of Glasgow | Masiga D.K.,Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit | Masiga D.K.,University of Glasgow | Turner C.M.R.,University of Glasgow
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases | Year: 2014

Background:The IAEA colony is the only one available for mass rearing of Glossina pallidipes, a vector of human and animal African trypanosomiasis in eastern Africa. This colony is the source for Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) programs in East Africa. The source population of this colony is unclear and its genetic diversity has not previously been evaluated and compared to field populations.Methodology/Principal Findings:We examined the genetic variation within and between the IAEA colony and its potential source populations in north Zimbabwe and the Kenya/Uganda border at 9 microsatellites loci to retrace the demographic history of the IAEA colony. We performed classical population genetics analyses and also combined historical and genetic data in a quantitative analysis using Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC). There is no evidence of introgression from the north Zimbabwean population into the IAEA colony. Moreover, the ABC analyses revealed that the foundation and establishment of the colony was associated with a genetic bottleneck that has resulted in a loss of 35.7% of alleles and 54% of expected heterozygosity compared to its source population. Also, we show that tsetse control carried out in the 1990's is likely reduced the effective population size of the Kenya/Uganda border population.Conclusions/Significance:All the analyses indicate that the area of origin of the IAEA colony is the Kenya/Uganda border and that a genetic bottleneck was associated with the foundation and establishment of the colony. Genetic diversity associated with traits that are important for SIT may potentially have been lost during this genetic bottleneck which could lead to a suboptimal competitiveness of the colony males in the field. The genetic diversity of the colony is lower than that of field populations and so, studies using colony flies should be interpreted with caution when drawing general conclusions about G. pallidipes biology. © 2014 Ciosi et al.

BACKGROUND: Microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are common tools for diagnosing malaria, but are deficient in detecting low Plasmodium parasitaemia. A novel molecular diagnostic tool (nPCR-HRM) that combines the sensitivity and specificity of nested PCR (nPCR) and direct PCR-high resolution melting analysis (dPCR-HRM) was developed. To evaluate patterns of anti-malarial drug administration when no parasites are detected, nPCR-HRM was employed to screen blood samples for low parasitaemia from febrile patients without microscopically detectable Plasmodium infections in a rural malaria-endemic setting.METHODS: Blood samples (n = 197) were collected in two islands of Lake Victoria, Kenya, from febrile patients without Plasmodium detectable by microscopy or RDTs. 18S rRNA gene sequences were amplified from extracted DNA by nPCR-HRM, nPCR, and dPCR-HRM to detect and differentiate Plasmodium parasites. The limits of detection (LoD) were compared using serial dilutions of the WHO International Standard for P. falciparum DNA. Data on administration of anti-malarials were collected to estimate prescription of anti-malarial drugs to patients with and without low parasitaemia Plasmodium infections.RESULTS: The coupled nPCR-HRM assay detected Plasmodium parasites with greater sensitivity (LoD = 236 parasites/mL) than either nPCR (LoD = 4,700 parasites/mL) or dPCR-HRM (LoD = 1,490 parasites/mL). Moreover, nPCR-HRM detected and differentiated low-parasitaemia infections in significantly greater proportions of patients than did either nPCR or dPCR-HRM (p-value <0.001). Among these low-parasitaemia infections, 67.7% of patients were treated with anti-malarials, whereas 81.5% of patients not infected with Plasmodium parasites were treated with anti-malarials.CONCLUSIONS: The enhanced sensitivity of nPCR-HRM demonstrates limitations of differential febrile illness diagnostics in rural malaria endemic settings that confound epidemiological estimates of malaria, and lead to inadvertent misadministration of anti-malarial drugs. This is the first study that employs low-parasitaemia Plasmodium diagnostics to quantify the prescription of anti-malarial drugs to both non-malaria febrile patients and patients with low-parasitaemia Plasmodium infections. nPCR-HRM enhances low-parasitaemia malaria diagnosis and can potentially surmount the deficiencies of microscopy and RDT-based results in determining low-parasitaemia Plasmodium infection rates for evaluating malaria elimination efforts. The findings highlight the need for improved differential diagnostics of febrile illness in remote malaria endemic regions.

Chore J.K.,Egerton University | Obonyo M.,Egerton University | Wachira F.N.,Egerton University | Mireji P.O.,Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics Unit
Journal of insect science (Online) | Year: 2014

Management of mosquito vectors by current classes of mosquitocides is relatively ineffective and necessitates prospecting for novel insecticides with different modes of action. Larvicidal activities of 15 crude extracts from three geographically isolated Aloe ngongensis (Christian), Aloe turkanensis (Christian), and Aloe fibrosa (Lavranos & L.E.Newton) (Xanthorrhoeaceae) species (five each) were evaluated against Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus in Hasselquist) (Diptera: Culiciade L.) yellow fever mosquito. Freshly collected leaves were separately shade-dried to constant weight at room temperature (25 ± 2°C) and powdered. Each powder was macerated in solvents of increasing polarity (hexane, chloroform, ethyl acetate, acetone, and methanol) for 72 h and subsequently filtered. Third-instar larvae (n = 25) of the mosquito were exposed to the extracts at different concentrations for 24 h to establish dose response relationships. All the fractions of A. ngongensis were active below 1 mg/ml except A. fibrosa and A. turkanensis. The highest activity (LC50) mg/ml was obtained with extracts of A. fibrosa hexane (0.05 [0.04-0.06]), followed by A. ngongensis hexane (0.11 [0.08-0.15]) and A. turkanensis ethyl acetate (0.11 [0.09-0.12]). The activities are apparently Aloe species specific and extraction solvent dependent. These findings suggest that extracts from selected Aloe species have mosquitocidal principles that can be exploited in development of new insecticides. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Entomological Society of America.

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