A Ribosomal RNA Gene Probe Differentiates Member Species of the Anopheles gambiae Complex

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  • * Malaria Branch, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333
  • | Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322
  • | Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 08911

A 0.59 kilobase DNA fragment cloned from an rDNA cistron of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae can be used as a probe to differentiate between A. gambiae, A. arabiensis, and A. melas, three morphologically identical sibling species in the A. gambiae complex which otherwise can be reliably distinguished only by polytene chromosome banding patterns. Although all are important (and often sympatric) African malaria vectors, their relative roles in malaria transmission have thus far been difficult to assess. The probe, an EcoRI-SalI fragment from the 3′ end of the 28S β coding region of the cistron, is present in all three species, but the species differ uniquely with respect to the location of an EcoRI site in the nontranscribed spacer (NTS) downstream of the fragment. We have routinely used the probe to identify A. gambiae complex mosquitoes to species on the basis of genomic DNA extracted from individual air dried specimens. A single mosquito abdomen provides more than sufficient DNA for the assay, and neither eggs nor a bloodmeal in the abdomen interfere with DNA yield. Moreover, the DNA extraction procedure does not degrade the bloodmeal IgG, so the residual protein pellet can be used to identify the mosquito bloodmeal source. Since the rDNA cistron organization as detected by the probe does not differ between male and female mosquitoes, the probe can be used for either sex. Preliminary experiments show that the probe is equally useful for mosquito larvae and pupae.