Determining the effects of nutrition on the reproductive physiology of male mosquitoes

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The Ohio State University

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The effects of nutrition on aspects of insect physiology such as body size, nutrition, and fecundity are well-studied in some species, but we lack a detailed picture of how nutrition influences the reproductive physiology of insects such as mosquitoes. Given that mosquitoes such as the Northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens, are vectors of many deadly diseases and their ability to quickly proliferate, understanding their reproductive physiology is critical. To uncover the relationship between nutrition and the reproductive physiology of mosquitoes, we reared larvae of Cx. pipiens on a standard lab diet and divided adult males among three different dietary treatments: low (3%), moderate (10%), and high (20%) sucrose. After one week, we measured male accessory gland (MAG) size and utilized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to measure and identify metabolites within the MAGs. We also measured total lipid and protein content in the bodies of adult male mosquitoes. Finally, we allowed males to mate with females to determine whether male nutrition influenced female fecundity. We found that males raised on the 3% sucrose diet had significantly smaller MAGs compared to males from the 10% and 20% sucrose diets. We also found that diet affected the metabolic composition of the MAGs, where some metabolites became differentially abundant as a result of diet. We could not identify the differentially abundant metabolites, but we were able to identify a small number of metabolites present in all MAGs. Diet did not affect whole-body protein content, but surprisingly, lipid content was highest in males from the low dietary treatment. We did not observe a relationship between male diet and female fecundity. Taken together, our results demonstrate that adult male diet does affect their reproductive physiology.


The content of this thesis was presented at the 2020 Denman forum at OSU, where it received 3rd place in its category


Culex pipiens, Fecundity, NMR metabolomics, Male accessory glands, Lipid abundance