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The Malaria mosquito’s “mating plug”

Posted Jan 20 2010 12:00am

Who would have thought that the male Malaria mosquito, unlike any other, must seal its sperm inside a female to guarantee fertilisation?  It is true.  For the Anopheles gambiae to make sure fertilisation is successful, it produces a special “mating plug” to keep its sperm in.

Upon discovering this fact, that the male mosquito generates a coagulated mass of proteins and seminal fluids during copulation to lock the sperm in the female’s sperm storage organ, researchers at Imperial College London began to salivate at the prospect of preventing the male mosquito from creating this plug altogether, which would leave the female with sterile eggs and the mosquito population  in the red. Female mosquitoes need human blood to produce eggs.  In turn, these eggs are fertilised, in flight, by the male mosquito.

Lead author of the Imperial College study, Dr. Flamina Catteruccia, explains that an enzyme secreted by the male mosquito interacts with other proteins in its seminal fluid causing the fluid to coagulate or harden.

Her team at Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences found a way to disarm the male’s coagulation enzyme thus rendering copulation useless as coagulation cannot occur without the enzyme.

Emboldened, the scientists are thinking that in the future, an insecticide spray that Vector Control staff could easily apply in the field, will be concocted to do just that.  If it works, the eggs of the female Anopheles gambiae mosquito would never hatch, the mosquito population would drop dramatically and Vector Control would have yet another weapon to fight Malaria in Africa, where A. gambiae is the major cause of Malaria deaths.  (Source:


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