Mosquitoes in the Culex pipiens complex are considered to be involved in the transmission of a range of pathogens, including West Nile virus (WNV). Although its taxonomic status is still debated, the complex includes species, both globally distributed or with a more limited distribution, morphologically similar and characterised by different physiological and behavioural traits, which affect their ability as vectors. In many European countries, Cx. pipiens and its sibling species Culex torrentium occur in sympatry, exhibiting similar bionomic and morphological characters, but only Cx. pipiens appears to play a vector role in WNV transmission. This species consists of two biotypes, pipiens and molestus, which can interbreed when in sympatry, and their hybrids can act as WNV-bridge vectors, due to intermediate ecological features. Considering the yearly WNV outbreaks since 2008 and given the morphological difficulties in recognising species and biotypes, our aim was to molecularly identify and characterised Cx. pipiens and Cx. torrentium in Italy, using recently developed molecular assays. Culex torrentium was not detected; as in other European countries, the pipiens and molestus biotypes were widely found in sympatry with hybrids in most environments. The UPGMA cluster analysis applied to CQ11 genotypic frequencies mainly revealed two groups of Cx. pipiens populations that differed in ecological features. The high propensity of the molestus biotype to exist in hypogean environments, where the habitat's physical characteristics hinder and preclude the gene flow, was shown. These results confirmed the CQ11 assay as a reliable diagnostic method, consistent with the ecological and physiological aspects of the populations analysed. Since the assessment of the actual role of three biotypes in the WNV circulation remains a crucial point to be elucidated, this extensive molecular screening of Cx. pipiens populations can provide new insights into the ecology of the species and may give useful indications to plan and implement WNV surveillance activities in Italy.

Di Luca, M.; Toma, L.; Boccolini, D.; Severini, F.; La Rosa, G.; Minelli, G.; Bongiorno, G.; Montarsi, F.; Arnoldi, D.; Capelli, G.; Rizzoli, A.; Romi, R. (2016). Ecological distribution and CQ11 genetic structure of Culex pipiens complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in Italy. PLOS ONE, 11 (1): e0146476. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146476 handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10449/28250

Ecological distribution and CQ11 genetic structure of Culex pipiens complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in Italy

Arnoldi, Daniele;Rizzoli, Annapaola;
2016

Abstract

Mosquitoes in the Culex pipiens complex are considered to be involved in the transmission of a range of pathogens, including West Nile virus (WNV). Although its taxonomic status is still debated, the complex includes species, both globally distributed or with a more limited distribution, morphologically similar and characterised by different physiological and behavioural traits, which affect their ability as vectors. In many European countries, Cx. pipiens and its sibling species Culex torrentium occur in sympatry, exhibiting similar bionomic and morphological characters, but only Cx. pipiens appears to play a vector role in WNV transmission. This species consists of two biotypes, pipiens and molestus, which can interbreed when in sympatry, and their hybrids can act as WNV-bridge vectors, due to intermediate ecological features. Considering the yearly WNV outbreaks since 2008 and given the morphological difficulties in recognising species and biotypes, our aim was to molecularly identify and characterised Cx. pipiens and Cx. torrentium in Italy, using recently developed molecular assays. Culex torrentium was not detected; as in other European countries, the pipiens and molestus biotypes were widely found in sympatry with hybrids in most environments. The UPGMA cluster analysis applied to CQ11 genotypic frequencies mainly revealed two groups of Cx. pipiens populations that differed in ecological features. The high propensity of the molestus biotype to exist in hypogean environments, where the habitat's physical characteristics hinder and preclude the gene flow, was shown. These results confirmed the CQ11 assay as a reliable diagnostic method, consistent with the ecological and physiological aspects of the populations analysed. Since the assessment of the actual role of three biotypes in the WNV circulation remains a crucial point to be elucidated, this extensive molecular screening of Cx. pipiens populations can provide new insights into the ecology of the species and may give useful indications to plan and implement WNV surveillance activities in Italy.
Culex pipiens
West Nile virus
Population genetics
Settore VET/06 - PARASSITOLOGIA E MALATTIE PARASSITARIE DEGLI ANIMALI
Di Luca, M.; Toma, L.; Boccolini, D.; Severini, F.; La Rosa, G.; Minelli, G.; Bongiorno, G.; Montarsi, F.; Arnoldi, D.; Capelli, G.; Rizzoli, A.; Romi, R. (2016). Ecological distribution and CQ11 genetic structure of Culex pipiens complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in Italy. PLOS ONE, 11 (1): e0146476. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146476 handle: http://hdl.handle.net/10449/28250
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