CRISPR/Cas9 -mediated gene knockout of Anopheles gambiae FREP1 suppresses malaria parasite infection

Dong, YS, Maria L.; Marois, Eric; Dimopoulos, George,  PLOS Pathogens,  14:e1006898. 2018.

The causative agent of malaria, Plasmodium, has to complete a complex infection cycle in the Anopheles gambiae mosquito vector in order to reach the salivary gland from where it can be transmitted to a human host. The parasite’s development in the mosquito relies on numerous host factors (agonists), and their inhibition or inactivation can thereby result in suppression of infection and consequently malaria transmission. The recently developed CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing tools for Anopheles mosquitoes provide new and promising opportunities to delete (inactivate) Plasmodium agonists to better understand their function and for blocking malaria transmission. Here we have established a modified CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technique for malaria vector A. gambiae mosquitoes. Through this approach we have inactivated the fibrinogen-related protein 1 (FREP1) gene, via CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, and the impact of this manipulation on the mosquito’s susceptibility to Plasmodium and on mosquito fitness. FREP1 knockout mutants showed a profound suppression of infection with both human and rodent malaria parasites, while it also resulted in fitness costs: a significantly lower blood-feeding propensity, fecundity and egg hatching rate, and a retarded larval development and pupation time, and reduced longevity after a blood meal.