Open Access Research

Functional genetic characterization of salivary gland development in Aedes aegypti

Chilinh Nguyen12, Emily Andrews2, Christy Le12, Longhua Sun1, Zeinab Annan2, Anthony Clemons1, David W Severson12 and Molly Duman-Scheel123*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Eck Institute for Global Health and Department of Biological Sciences, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA

2 Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, South Bend, IN 46617, USA

3 Indiana University School of Medicine, Raclin-Carmichael Hall, 1234 Notre Dame Avenue, South Bend, IN 46617, USA

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EvoDevo 2013, 4:9  doi:10.1186/2041-9139-4-9

Published: 6 March 2013



Despite the devastating global impact of mosquito-borne illnesses on human health, very little is known about mosquito developmental biology. In this investigation, functional genetic analysis of embryonic salivary gland development was performed in Aedes aegypti, the dengue and yellow fever vector and an emerging model for vector mosquito development. Although embryonic salivary gland development has been well studied in Drosophila melanogaster, little is known about this process in mosquitoes or other arthropods.


Mosquitoes possess orthologs of many genes that regulate Drosophila melanogaster embryonic salivary gland development. The expression patterns of a large subset of these genes were assessed during Ae. aegypti development. These studies identified a set of molecular genetic markers for the developing mosquito salivary gland. Analysis of marker expression allowed for tracking of the progression of Ae. aegypti salivary gland development in embryos. In Drosophila, the salivary glands develop from placodes located in the ventral neuroectoderm. However, in Ae. aegypti, salivary marker genes are not expressed in placode-like patterns in the ventral neuroectoderm. Instead, marker gene expression is detected in salivary gland rudiments adjacent to the proventriculus. These observations highlighted the need for functional genetic characterization of mosquito salivary gland development. An siRNA- mediated knockdown strategy was therefore employed to investigate the role of one of the marker genes, cyclic-AMP response element binding protein A (Aae crebA), during Ae. aegypti salivary gland development. These experiments revealed that Aae crebA encodes a key transcriptional regulator of the secretory pathway in the developing Ae. aegypti salivary gland.


The results of this investigation indicated that the initiation of salivary gland development in Ae. aegypti significantly differs from that of D. melanogaster. Despite these differences, some elements of salivary gland development, including the ability of CrebA to regulate secretory gene expression, are conserved between the two species. These studies underscore the need for further analysis of mosquito developmental genetics and may foster comparative studies of salivary gland development in additional insect species.

Aedes aegypti; CrebA; Development; Drosophila melanogaster; Mosquito; Salivary gland; siRNA; Vector