K-State biochemist contributes to article in Science magazine

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- A Kansas State University biochemist's contributions to research on immune systems in mosquitoes are part of a journal article appearing in Science magazine.

Michael Kanost is a distinguished professor of biochemistry, head of the department and a member of the K-State Arthropod Genomics Center. He was part of a group of international researchers whose work appears in the June 22 issue of Science. The researchers are working to understand how the immune systems in two types of mosquitoes and the fruit fly evolved over time. This way, scientists will have a better idea of what genes to study in their efforts to halt the transmission of dangerous insect-spread diseases like malaria.

"Insects can defend themselves against diseases," Kanost said. "Ordinarily, the immune system would kill a microorganism. When there's the right relationship, the diseases can avoid or disrupt the insect's immune response."

According to Kanost, the research featured in Science compared fruit flies and two types of mosquitoes. As its name implies, the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, is a carrier of malaria. Aedes aegypti, commonly called the yellow fever mosquito, carries viral diseases like yellow fever and the dengue virus. The fruit fly and these mosquitoes share much in common, in that they are part of the same order. Because much already is known about the fruit fly's genes and immune responses, the researchers were able to compare the mosquitoes' genes with genes from the fruit fly and other well-studied insects like caterpillars.

For Kanost's part of the research featured in Science, he worked with scientists at Oklahoma State University to focus on a family of genes for serine proteases, which he said are present in the blood and involved in response to infections. Kanost's group worked to identify the genes by comparing them to genes that are already known. Kanost was looking for orthologous genes, or in oth

Contact: Michael Kanost
Kansas State University

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