Persistent West Nile virus (WNV) infection in the mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus Say (Diptera: Culicidae) is associated with pathological changes in the salivary glands, including apoptotic cell death and a corresponding reduction in virus transmission over time. The vector host response to WNV infection and the molecular basis of WNV pathogenesis in Cx. quinquefasciatus was investigated using oligonucleotide microarrays designed to detect differences in the salivary gland transcriptome between WNV-infected mosquitoes and uninfected controls. Transcripts with increased abundance in infected salivary glands included those related to immunity, transcription, protein transport and degradation, amino acid and nucleotide metabolism, signal transduction, and cellular detoxification. Microarray-based analysis detected a decrease in transcript levels of a Culex inhibitor of apoptosis gene (IAP-1) and a decrease in abundance of 11 transcripts encoding salivary gland proteins, Transcript levels for an endonuclease, a proline-rich mucin, and several D7 protein family members also decreased. Transcripts with the greatest change in abundance during infection had either no similarity to sequences found in GenBank, VectorBase, and FlyBase, or were similar to sequences with uncharacterized protein products. These transcripts represent exciting targets for future analysis. Results from this study suggest that WNV infection influences transcriptional changes in an invertebrate host target tissue that may confer an advantage to the replicating virus, induce a host defense response, and alter the composition of vector saliva. The ramifications of these changes are discussed in terms of mosquito vector competence and WNV pathogenesis.
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