Most mosquito species are anautogenous, which means they must blood feed on a vertebrate host to produce eggs, while a few are autogenous and can produce eggs without blood feeding. Egg formation is best understood in the anautogenous mosquito Aedes aegypti, where insulin-like peptides (ILPs), ovary ecdysteroidogenic hormone (OEH) and 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) interact to regulate gonadotrophic cycles. Circulating hemocytes also approximately double in abundance in conjunction with a gonadotrophic cycle, but the factors responsible for stimulating this increase remain unclear. Focusing on Ae. aegypti, we determined that hemocyte abundance similarly increased in intact blood-fed females and decapitated blood-fed females that were injected with ILP3, whereas OEH, 20E or heat-killed bacteria had no stimulatory activity. ILP3 upregulated insulin-insulin growth factor signaling in hemocytes, but few genes – including almost no transcripts for immune factors – were differentially expressed. ILP3 also stimulated circulating hemocytes to increase in two other anautogenous (Anopheles gambiae and Culex quinquefasciatus) and two facultatively autogenous mosquitoes (Aedes atropalpus and Culex pipiens molestus), but had no stimulatory activity in the obligately autogenous mosquito Toxorhynchites amboinensis. Altogether, our results identify ILPs as the primary regulators of hemocyte proliferation in association with egg formation, but also suggest this response has been lost in the evolution of obligate autogeny.

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