Discovery of Plasmodium modulators by genome-wide analysis of circulating hemocytes in Anopheles gambiae.

Insect hemocytes mediate important cellular immune responses including phagocytosis and encapsulation and also secrete immune factors such as opsonins, melanization factors, and antimicrobial peptides. However, the molecular composition of these important immune cells has not been elucidated in depth, because of their scarcity in the circulating hemolymph, their adhesion to multiple tissues and the lack of primary culture methods to produce sufficient material for a genome-wide analysis. In this study, we report a genome-wide molecular characterization of circulating hemocytes collected from the hemolymph of adult female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes-the major mosquito vector of human malaria in subSaharan Africa. Their molecular profile identified 1,485 transcripts with enriched expression in these cells, and many of these genes belong to innate immune gene families. This hemocyte-specific transcriptome is compared to those of Drosophila melanogaster and two other mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Armigeres subalbatus. We report the identification of two genes as ubiquitous hemocyte markers and several others as hemocyte subpopulation markers. We assess, via an RNAi screen, the roles in development of Plasmodium berghei of 63 genes expressed in hemocytes and provide a molecular comparison of the transcriptome of these cells during malaria infection.