The discovery of a pair of receptors that enable fruit flies to sense carbon dioxide (CO2) could boost the development of a new type of mosquito repellent.
Mosquitoes and other insects are extraordinarily sensitive to CO2, using specialized neurons to detect the CO2 emitted from their hosts. But the molecular mechanism behind this feat was unknown. Online this week in Nature, Leslie B. Vosshall and colleagues demonstrate that two receptors, called Gr21a and Gr63a, endow fruit flies with their CO2 sensitivity. Flies with only one of the two receptors are CO2-insensitive, and when both genes are expressed in a fly's CO2-insensitive neurons, the cells become sensitive to the gas.
Similar genes were also found in the malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae). So the team hope that drugs designed to inactivate the receptors could also reduce the attraction that mosquitoes feel towards the exhalations of humans.
Leslie B. Vosshall (The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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