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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Mosquito brains encode unique features of human odour to drive host seeking

Zhao, Zhilei; Zung, Jessica L.; Hinze, Annika; Kriete, Alexis L.; Iqbal, Azwad; Younger, Meg A.; Matthews, Benjamin J.; Merhof, Dorit; Thiberge, Stephan; Ignell, Rickard; Strauch, Martin; McBride, Carolyn S.

Abstract

A globally invasive form of the mosquito Aedes aegypti specializes in biting humans, making it an efficient disease vector(1). Host-seeking female mosquitoes strongly prefer human odour over the odour of animals(2,3), but exactly how they distinguish between the two is not known. Vertebrate odours are complex blends of volatile chemicals with many shared components(4-7), making discrimination an interesting sensory coding challenge. Here we show that human and animal odours evoke activity in distinct combinations of olfactory glomeruli within the Ae. aegypti antennal lobe. One glomerulus in particular is strongly activated by human odour but responds weakly, or not at all, to animal odour. This human-sensitive glomerulus is selectively tuned to the long-chain aldehydes decanal and undecanal, which we show are consistently enriched in human odour and which probably originate from unique human skin lipids. Using synthetic blends, we further demonstrate that signalling in the human-sensitive glomerulus significantly enhances long-range host-seeking behaviour in a wind tunnel, recapitulating preference for human over animal odours. Our research suggests that animal brains may distil complex odour stimuli of innate biological relevance into simple neural codes and reveals targets for the design of next-generation mosquito-control strategies.

Published in

Nature
2022, volume: 605, number: 7911, pages: 706-712
Publisher: NATURE PORTFOLIO

Authors' information

Zhao, Zhilei
Princeton University
Zhao, Zhilei
Cornell University
Zung, Jessica L.
Princeton University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Kriete, Alexis L.
Princeton University
Iqbal, Azwad
Princeton University
Younger, Meg A.
Rockefeller University
Matthews, Benjamin J.
Rockefeller University
Merhof, Dorit
RWTH Aachen University
Thiberge, Stephan
Princeton University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Strauch, Martin
RWTH Aachen University
McBride, Carolyn S.
Princeton University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG3 Good health and wellbeing

UKÄ Subject classification

Neurosciences
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04675-4

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/117162