Transgenic Anopheles mosquitoes expressing human PAI-1 impair malaria transmission

Tales V. Pascini, Yeong Je Jeong, Wei Huang, Zarna R. Pala, Juliana M. Sá, Michael B. Wells, Christopher Kizito, Brendan Sweeney, Thiago L. Alves e Silva, Deborah J. Andrew, Marcelo Jacobs-­Lorena, Joel Vega-Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In mammals, the serine protease plasmin degrades extracellular proteins during blood clot removal, tissue remodeling, and cell migration. The zymogen plasminogen is activated into plasmin by two serine proteases: tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA), a process regulated by plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1), a serine protease inhibitor that specifically inhibits tPA and uPA. Plasmodium gametes and sporozoites use tPA and uPA to activate plasminogen and parasite-bound plasmin degrades extracellular matrices, facilitating parasite motility in the mosquito and the mammalian host. Furthermore, inhibition of plasminogen activation by PAI-1 strongly blocks infection in both hosts. To block parasite utilization of plasmin, we engineered Anopheles stephensi transgenic mosquitoes constitutively secreting human PAI-1 (huPAI-1) in the midgut lumen, in the saliva, or both. Mosquitoes expressing huPAI-1 strongly reduced rodent and human Plasmodium parasite transmission to mosquitoes, showing that co-opting plasmin for mosquito infection is a conserved mechanism among Plasmodium species. huPAI-1 expression in saliva induced salivary gland deformation which affects sporozoite invasion and P. berghei transmission to mice, resulting in significant levels of protection from malaria. Targeting the interaction of malaria parasites with the fibrinolytic system using genetically engineered mosquitoes could be developed as an intervention to control malaria transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2949
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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