Mosquitoes are vectors of many deadly and debilitating pathogens. In the current study, we used light and electron microscopies to study the immune response of Aedes aegypti hemocytes to bacterial inoculations, Plasmodium gallinaceum natural infections, and latex bead injections. After challenge, mosquitoes mounted strong phagocytic and melanization responses. Granulocytes phagocytosed bacteria singly or pooled them inside large membrane-delimited vesicles. Phagocytosis of bacteria, Plasmodium sporozoites, and latex beads was extensive; we estimated that individual granulocytes have the capacity to phagocytose hundreds of bacteria and thousands of latex particles. Oenocytoids were also seen to internalize bacteria and latex particles, although infrequently and with low capacity. Besides phagocytosis, mosquitoes cleared bacteria and sporozoites by melanization. Interestingly, the immune response toward 2 species of bacteria was different; most Escherichia coli were phagocytosed, but most Micrococcus luteus were melanized. Similar to E. coli, most Plasmodium sporozoites were phagocytosed. The immune response was rapid; phagocytosis and melanization of bacteria began as early as 5 min after inoculation. The magnitude and speed of the cellular response suggest that hemocytes, acting in concert with the humoral immune response, are the main force driving the battle against foreign invaders.
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