Root exudate chemical cues of an invasive plant modulate oviposition behavior and survivorship of a malaria mosquito vector

Trizah K. Milugo, David P. Tchouassi, Reginald A. Kavishe, Rhoel R. Dinglasan & Baldwyn Torto
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Gravid female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes identify suitable oviposition sites through a repertoire of cues, but the influence of allelochemicals, especially root phytochemicals in modulating this behavior and impacting subsequent progeny bionomics remains unexplored. We addressed these questions in the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae and its invasive host plant Parthenium hysterophorus. Using chemical analysis combined with laboratory behavioral assays, we demonstrate that a blend of terpenes, namely α-pinene, α-phellandrene, β-phellandrene, 3-carene and (E)-caryophyllene emitted from P. hysterophorus root exudate treated-water attracted gravid females. However, fewer eggs (55%) hatched in this treatment than in control water (66%). The sesquiterpene lactone parthenin, identified in both the natural aquatic habitat harboring P. hysterophorus and root exudate-treated water was found to be responsible for the ovicidal effect. Moreover, larvae exposed to parthenin developed 2 to 3 days earlier but survived 4 to 5 days longer as adults (median larval survival time = 9 days (all replicates);11 to 12 days as adults) than the non-exposed control (median larval survival time = 11 days (reps 1 & 2), 12 days (rep 3); 6 to 7 days as adults). These results improve our understanding of the risk and benefits of oviposition site selection by gravid An. gambiae females and the role root exudate allelochemicals could play on anopheline bionomics, with potential implications in malaria transmission.