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Urea Synthesis and Excretion in Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Are Regulated by a Unique Cross-Talk Mechanism*

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Isoe J, Scaraffia PY 2013. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65393. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065393

Editor: Immo A. Hansen, New Mexico State University, United States of America

Received: March 3, 2013; Accepted: April 29, 2013; Published: June 5, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 Isoe, Scaraffia. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Aedes aegypti mosquitoes do not have a typical functional urea cycle for ammonia disposal such as the one present in most terrestrial vertebrates. However, they can synthesize urea by two different pathways, argininolysis and uricolysis. We investigated how formation of urea by these two pathways is regulated in females of A. aegypti. The expression of arginase (AR) and urate oxidase (UO), either separately or simultaneously (ARUO) was silenced by RNAi. The amounts of several nitrogen compounds were quantified in excreta using mass spectrometry. Injection of mosquitoes with either dsRNA-AR or dsRNA-UO significantly decreased the expressions of AR or UO in the fat body (FB) and Malpighian tubules (MT). Surprisingly, the expression level of AR was increased when UO was silenced and vice versa, suggesting a cross-talk regulation between pathways. In agreement with these data, the amount of urea measured 48 h after blood feeding remained unchanged in those mosquitoes injected with dsRNA-AR or dsRNA-UO. However, allantoin significantly increased in the excreta of dsRNA-AR-injected females. The knockdown of ARUO mainly led to a decrease in urea and allantoin excretion, and an increase in arginine excretion. In addition, dsRNA-AR-injected mosquitoes treated with a specific nitric oxide synthase inhibitor showed an increase of UO expression in FB and MT and a significant increase in the excretion of nitrogen compounds. Interestingly, both a temporary delay in the digestion of a blood meal and a significant reduction in the expression of several genes involved in ammonia metabolism were observed in dsRNA-AR, UO or ARUO-injected females. These results reveal that urea synthesis and excretion in A. aegypti are tightly regulated by a unique cross-talk signaling mechanism. This process allows blood-fed mosquitoes to regulate the synthesis and/or excretion of nitrogen waste products, and avoid toxic effects that could result from a lethal concentration of ammonia in their tissues.

*Note: The Chicken anti-Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) used in this publication was produced by Gallus Immunotech Inc.  

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