Background: Anopheles gambiae is the primary mosquito vector of human malaria parasites in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, three innate immune signaling pathways, including the nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB-dependent Toll and immune deficient (IMD) pathways and the Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription (Jak-STAT) pathway, have been extensively characterized in An. gambiae. However, in addition to NF-kappaB-dependent signaling, three mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways regulated by JNK, ERK and p38 MAPK are critical mediators of innate immunity in other invertebrates and in mammals. Our understanding of the roles of the MAPK signaling cascades in anopheline innate immunity is limited, so identification of the encoded complement of these proteins, their upstream activators, and phosphorylation profiles in response to relevant immune signals was warranted.Results: In this study, we present the orthologs and phylogeny of 17 An. gambiae MAPKs, two of which were previously unknown and two others that were incompletely annotated. We also provide detailed temporal activation profiles for ERK, JNK, and p38 MAPK in An. gambiae cells in vitro to immune signals that are relevant to malaria parasite infection (human insulin, human transforming growth factor-beta1, hydrogen peroxide) and to bacterial lipopolysaccharide. These activation profiles and possible upstream regulatory pathways are interpreted in light of known MAPK signaling cascades.Conclusions: The establishment of a MAPK "road map" based on the most advanced mosquito genome annotation can accelerate our understanding of host-pathogen interactions and broader physiology of An. gambiae and other mosquito species. Further, future efforts to develop predictive models of anopheline cell signaling responses, based on iterative construction and refinement of data-based and literature-based knowledge of the MAP kinase cascades and other networked pathways will facilitate identification of the "master signaling regulators" in biomedically important mosquito species.
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