Human IGF1 extends lifespan and enhances resistance to Plasmodium falciparum infection in the malaria vector Anopheles stephensi

Anna Drexler, Andrew Nuss, Eric Hauck, Elizabeth Glennon, Kong Cheung, Mark Brown, Shirley Luckhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The highly conserved insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling (IIS) pathway regulates metabolism, development, lifespan and immunity across a wide range of organisms. Previous studies have shown that human insulin ingested in the blood meal can activate mosquito IIS, resulting in attenuated lifespan and increased malaria parasite infection. Because human IGF1 is present at higher concentrations in blood than insulin and is functionally linked with lifespan and immune processes, we predicted that human IGF1 ingested in a blood meal would affect lifespan and malaria parasite infection in the mosquito Anopheles stephensi. Here we demonstrate that physiological levels of ingested IGF1, like insulin, can persist intact in the blood-filled midgut for up to 30 h and disseminate into the mosquito body, and that both peptides activate IIS in mosquito cells and midgut. At these same levels, ingested IGF1 alone extended average mosquito lifespan by 23% compared with controls and, more significantly, when ingested in infected blood meals, reduced the prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum-infected mosquitoes by >20% and parasite load by 35-50% compared with controls. Thus, the effects of ingested IGF1 on mosquito lifespan and immunity are opposite to those of ingested insulin. These results offer the first evidence that insect cells can functionally discriminate between mammalian insulin and IGF1. Further, in light of previous success in genetically targeting IIS to alter mosquito lifespan and malaria parasite transmission, this study indicates that a more complete understanding of the IIS-activating ligands in blood can be used to optimize transgenic strategies for malaria control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-217
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Aging
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-like growth factor
  • Mosquito
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Insect Science
  • Aquatic Science


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