The effects of blood feeding and exogenous supply of tryptophan on the quantities of xanthurenic acid in the salivary glands of Anopheles stephensi (Diptera: Culicidae)

Bernard Okech*, Meiji Arai, Hiroyuki Matsuoka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Xanthurenic acid (XA), produced as a byproduct during the biosynthesis of insect eye pigment (ommochromes), is a strong inducer of Plasmodium gametogenesis at very low concentrations. In previous studies, it was shown that XA is present in Anopheles stephensi (Diptera: Culicidae) mosquito salivary glands and that during blood feeding the mosquitoes ingested their own saliva into the midgut. Considering these two facts together, it is therefore likely that XA is discharged with saliva during blood feeding and is swallowed into the midgut where it exerts its effect on Plasmodium gametocytes. However, the quantities of XA in the salivary glands and midgut are unknown. In this study, we used high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection to detect and quantify XA in the salivary glands and midgut. Based on the results of this study, we found 0.28 ± 0.05 ng of XA in the salivary glands of the mosquitoes, accounting for 10% of the total XA content in the mosquito whole body. The amounts of XA in the salivary glands reduced to 0.13 ± 0.06 ng after mosquitoes ingested a blood meal. Approximately 0.05 ± 0.01 ng of XA was detected in the midgut of nonblood fed An. stephensi mosquitoes. By adding synthetic tryptophan as a source of XA into larval rearing water (2 mM) or in sugar meals (10 mM), we evaluated whether XA levels in the mosquito (salivary glands, midgut, and whole body) were boosted and the subsequent effect on infectivity of Plasmodium berghei in the treated mosquito groups. A female specific increase in XA content was observed in the whole body and in the midgut of mosquito groups where tryptophan was added either in the larval water or sugar meals. However, XA in the salivary glands was not affected by tryptophan addition to larval water, and surprisingly it reduced when tryptophan was added to sugar meals. The P. berghei oocyst loads in the mosquito midguts were lower in mosquitoes fed tryptophan treated sugar meals than in mosquitoes reared on tryptophan treated larval water. Our results suggest that mosquito nutrition may have a significant impact on whole body and midgut XA levels in mosquitoes. We discuss the observed parasite infectivity results in relation to XA's relationship with malaria parasite development in mosquitoes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1118
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - 24 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Anopheles mosquito
  • HPLC
  • Malaria
  • Salivary glands
  • Tryptophan
  • Xanthurenic acid


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