Rift Valley Fever Virus in the Cardia of Culex pipiens: An Immunocytochemical and Ultrastructural Study

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  • Tropical and Geographical Disease Institute, Department of Biological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

In this paper, we consider the movement of Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus from infected mosquito midgut epithelial cells into the hemocoel as an important factor in the ultimate ability of the insect to transmit the virus. Our results are therefore significant in the context of vector competence. The mosquito Culex pipiens was identified as the primary vector of RVF in an epidemic that occurred in Egypt in the 1970s. On this basis, we have carried out several studies of RVF virus in this mosquito species. In the research reported here, we used immunocytochemical and transmission electron microscopic techniques to study the occurrence of RVF virus in the mosquito cardia and aspects of the histology and ultrastructure of this organ. The cardia is a complex organ consisting of both foregut and midgut tissue and is the location of the foregut-midgut junction. The cardia is of interest because it appears to provide routes of RVF virus egress from the midgut lumen and it is consistently infected in mosquitoes with disseminated infections, making it a potentially important site of viral amplification and an ideal site for studying RVF viral morphogenesis. In orally infected mosquitoes, large numbers of RVF virions were observed budding into the basal labyrinth associated with the outer cardial epithelial cells and into the noncellular matrix associated with the inner cardial epithelial cells and the cells of the intussuscepted foregut. In mosquitoes infected by injection of virus into the hemocoel and then held for different incubation periods, viral antigen was first detected in the cells of the intussuscepted foregut in the cardia and later in the cardial epithelial cells. In both orally and hemocoelically infected mosquitoes, large numbers of virions were observed in the matrix. It is therefore clear that RVF virus can infect the cardial epithelial cells both from the lumen of the midgut and from the hemocoel, suggesting that the cardial tissues, including the intussuscepted foregut, provide a ready conduit for virus.