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Inner Workings of Mosquito Olfaction Revealed
[ Issue 141 Page 2 ] Monday, November 09, 2015, 07:36:55 Young Jae Kim Junior Staff Reporter yjkiss@kaist.ac.kr

A research team from Seoul National University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, led by Professors Hyung Wook Kwon and Young-Joon Ahn, found olfactory mechanisms that allow fast and efficient blood feeding for mosquitos. The fruit of their research was published online on August 26 in Scientific Reports.

The traditional view holds that while carbon dioxide and octanol attract mosquitos at long range, more specific odors attract them up close. How mosquitos efficiently locate blood vessels to quickly draw blood from was, however, a mystery.

Researchers found sensory hairs on the front-most part of the stylet, a needle like structure that mosquitoes use to pierce the skin. These hairs contained two kinds of olfactory receptors, both of which responded strongly to highly volatile compounds in the blood, such as 1-octen-3-ol and cyclohexanol, but showed no response to less volatile compounds such as lactic acid in sweat.

Using a technique known as RNA interference, researchers knocked-down the expression of these receptors. Mutated mosquitoes were incapable of effectively locating blood vessels, and took longer time for a full engorgement.

The research is expected to innovate methodologies used for finding substances that will inhibit mosquitos from practicing their vampiric instincts.

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