Malaria parasite (Plasmodium spp.) infection in the mosquito Anopheles stephensi induces significant expression of A. stephensi nitric oxide synthase (AsNOS) in the midgut epithelium as early as 6 h postinfection and intermittently thereafter. This induction results in the synthesis of inflammatory levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the blood-filled midgut that adversely impact parasite development. In mammals, P. falciparum glycosylphosphatidylinositols (PfGPIs) can induce NOS expression in immune and endothelial cells and are sufficient to reproduce the major effects of parasite infection. These effects are mediated in part by mimicry of insulin signaling by PfGPIs. In this study, we demonstrate that PfGPIs can induce AsNOS expression in A. stephensi cells in vitro and in the midgut epithelium in vivo. Signaling by P. falciparum merozoites and PfGPIs is mediated through A. stephensi Akt/protein kinase B and a pathway involving DSOR1, a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase, and an extracellular signal-regulated kinase. However, despite the involvement of kinases that are also associated with insulin signaling in A. stephensi cells, signaling by P. falciparum and by PfGPIs is distinctively different from signaling by insulin. Therefore, although mimicry of insulin by PfGPIs appears to be restricted to mammalian hosts of P. falciparum, the conservation of PfGPIs as a prominent parasite-derived signal of innate immunity can now be extended to include Anopheles mosquitoes, indicating that parasite signaling of innate immunity is conserved in mosquito and mammalian cells.
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