An evaluation of fusion partner proteins for paratransgenesis in Asaia bogorensis

C. Grogan, M. Bennett and D. J. Lampe,  Plos One,  17:18. 2022.

Mosquitoes transmit many pathogens responsible for human diseases, such as malaria which is caused by parasites in the genus Plasmodium. Current strategies to control vector-transmitted diseases are increasingly undermined by mosquito and pathogen resistance, so additional methods of control are required. Paratransgenesis is a method whereby symbiotic bacteria are genetically modified to affect the mosquito’s phenotype by engineering them to deliver effector molecules into the midgut to kill parasites. One paratransgenesis candidate is Asaia bogorensis, a Gram-negative bacterium colonizing the midgut, ovaries, and salivary glands of Anopheles sp. mosquitoes. Previously, engineered Asaia strains using native signals to drive the release of the antimicrobial peptide, scorpine, fused to alkaline phosphatase were successful in significantly suppressing the number of oocysts formed after a blood meal containing P. berghei. However, these strains saw high fitness costs associated with the production of the recombinant protein. Here, we report evaluation of five different partner proteins fused to scorpine that were evaluated for effects on the growth and fitness of the transgenic bacteria. Three of the new partner proteins resulted in significant levels of protein released from the Asaia bacterium while also significantly reducing the prevalence of mosquitoes infected with P. berghei. Two partners performed as well as the previously tested Asaia strain that used alkaline phosphatase in the fitness analyses, but neither exceeded it. It may be that there is a maximum level of fitness and parasite inhibition that can be achieved with scorpine being driven constitutively, and that use of a Plasmodium specific effector molecule in place of scorpine would help to mitigate the stress on the symbionts.


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