In the mosquito, the midgut epithelium is the initial tissue to become infected with an arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) that has been acquired from a vertebrate host along with a viremic bloodmeal. Following its replication in midgut epithelial cells, the virus needs to exit the midgut and infect secondary tissues including the salivary glands before it can be transmitted to another vertebrate host. The viral exit mechanism from the midgut, the midgut escape barrier (MEB), is poorly understood although it is an important determinant of mosquito vector competence for arboviruses. Using chikungunya virus (CHIKV) as a model in Aedes aegypti, we demonstrate that the basal lamina (BL) of the extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding the midgut constitutes a potential barrier for the virus. The BL, predominantly consisting of collagen IV and laminin, becomes permissive during bloodmeal digestion in the midgut lumen. Bloodmeal digestion, BL permissiveness, and CHIKV dissemination are coincident with increased collagenase activity, diminished collagen IV abundance, and BL shredding in the midgut between 24–32 h post-bloodmeal. This indicates that there may be a window-of-opportunity during which the MEB in Ae. aegypti becomes permissive for CHIKV. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are the principal extracellular endopeptidases responsible for the degradation/remodeling of the ECM including the BL. We focused on Ae. aegypti (Ae)MMP1, which is expressed in midgut epithelial cells, is inducible upon bloodfeeding, and shows collagenase (gelatinase) activity. However, attempts to inhibit AeMMP activity in general or specifically that of AeMMP1 did not seem to affect its function nor produce an altered midgut escape phenotype. As an alternative, we silenced and overexpressed the Ae. aegypti tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (AeTIMP) in the mosquito midgut. AeTIMP was highly upregulated in the midgut during bloodmeal digestion and was able to inhibit MMP activity in vitro. Bloodmeal-inducible, midgut-specific overexpression of AeTIMP or its expression via a recombinant CHIKV significantly increased midgut dissemination rates of the virus. Possibly, AeTIMP overexpression affected BL degradation and/or restoration thereby increasing the midgut dissemination efficiency of the virus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases