Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Out of Tune

Role of serotonin in mosquito hearing - target for reducing attraction of females to males

17 December 2022

Out of Tune

An irritating warning of itchy bites to come, the high-pitched whine of mosquitoes flying nearby is unmistakable – and not just to humans. To find potential mates, male mosquitoes detect the specific frequency of sounds made by the buzzing of female wings, a feature researchers are hoping to exploit to control mosquito populations. Inside the ears of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (pictured, with neurons in magenta, in males on the left, females on the right), several neurotransmitters pass on signals to enable sound detection, including serotonin (in green). Changing serotonin levels affects the way male ears respond to different frequencies, and feeding them a serotonin inhibitor reduces male attraction to female buzzing, suggesting that serotonin signalling is critical for functional hearing. Continuing to investigate ways of disrupting this process, that specifically target mosquitoes and can be deployed in the real world, could yield new weapons in the global fight against mosquito-borne diseases.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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