Ultra-prolonged activation of CO2-sensing neurons disorients mosquitoes

[Nature] Carbon dioxide (CO2) present in exhaled air is the most important sensory cue for female blood-feeding mosquitoes, causing activation of long-distance host-seeking flight, navigation towards the vertebrate host1 and, in the case of Aedes aegypti, increased sensitivity to skin odours2. The CO2 detection machinery is therefore an ideal target to disrupt host seeking. Here we use electrophysiological assays to identify a volatile odorant that causes an unusual, ultra-prolonged activation of CO2-detecting neurons in three major disease-transmitting mosquitoes: Anopheles gambiae, Culex quinquefasciatus and A. aegypti. Importantly, ultra-prolonged activation of these neurons severely compromises their ability subsequently to detect CO2 for several minutes. We also identify odours that strongly inhibit CO2-sensitive neurons as candidates for use in disruption of host-seeking behaviour, as well as an odour that evokes CO2-like activity and thus has potential use as a lure in trapping devices. The three classes of CO2-response-modifying odours offer powerful instruments for developing new generations of insect repellents and lures, which even in small quantities can interfere with the ability of mosquitoes to seek humans.

[Research - Nature]