Transcriptome profiling and Calreticulin expression in Zika virus-infected Aedes aegypti

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Zika virus (ZIKV) may cause febrile illness and neurological damage, such as microcephaly in fetuses. ZIKV is transmitted to humans by Aedes aegypti, a nearly cosmopolitan mosquito. Understanding the virus-vector molecular interactions has been promising to enhance the knowledge towards disease mitigation. Since ZIKV infection alters gene physiology of mosquitoes, we examined the expression profile of ZIKV-infected Ae. aegypti by several approaches to identify genes altered by viral infection. Transcriptomics were performed by comparing between ZIKV-infected and uninfected Ae. aegypti females, which revealed some differentially expressed genes. Most of these genes appear to be involved with immune response as evidenced by an interactome analysis, and a prominent finding was a calreticulin-like (CRT) gene, which was upregulated during the infection. Expression of CRT was also experimentally quantified by qPCR, however, it revealed no significant differences between infected and uninfected females. Instead, expression levels were highly variable among individuals and negatively correlated to viral load. We also tested the possibility of this gene to be silenced, but the double-stranded RNA did not reduce CRT expression, and actually increased the inter-individuals' expressional variability. Present results differed from our original hypothesis of upregulation by infection. They also diverged between them (comparing qPCR to Transcriptomics) and from the literature which reported augmented CRT levels in Aedes species during viral infection. Present case probably underlies a more complex virus-host interaction system than we expected. Regulation of this gene seems not to be a linear correlation between expression and viremy. As infection takes place, a complex homeostatic mechanism may act to prevent expression and other cellular tasks from drifting. It is also possible that CRT expression is simply randomly disturbed by viral infection. Taken together, results show that CRT expression profile during ZIKV infection is complex and requires different investigative approaches to be understood. Studies focused on the biochemical function of CRT protein and on its role in the native mosquito metabolic network could unravel how it is actually influenced by ZIKV. Current work contributes more by getting incidental findings and by posing new hypotheses than by answering the original questions.
de Almeida LS, Nishiyama Junior MY, Junior AP, Costa-da-Silva AL, Ioshino RS, Capurro ML, et al. Transcriptome profiling and Calreticulin expression in Zika virus-infected Aedes aegypti. Infect Genet Evol. 2023 Jan; 107:105390. doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2022.105390.
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