Immobilizing Mosquito Sperm by Inactivating Key Protein

Adult female Culex mosquito taking a blood meal. (Credit CDC).

New UC Riverside (UCR) research makes it likely that proteins responsible for activating mosquito sperm can be shut down, preventing them from swimming to or fertilizing eggs. The study could help control populations of Culex, the common house mosquito that transmits brain-swelling encephalitis and West Nile Virus. “During mating, mosquitoes couple tail to tail, and the males transfer sperm into the female reproductive tract. It can be stored there awhile, but it still has to get from point A to point B to complete fertilization,” said Cathy Thaler, PhD, UCR cell biologist and the study’s first author. Key to completing that journey are the specialized proteins secreted during ejaculation that activate the sperm flagella, or ‘tails,’ that power their movement. 

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