The pH profile, gross structure, ultrastructure and immunolabeling of the mosquito (Aedes aegypti) larval midgut are described as a first step in analyzing the role of plasma membrane H(+)V-ATPase in the alkalization of the gut, nutrient uptake and ionic regulation. Binding of an antibody to H(+)V-ATPase subunit E colocalizes with ‘portasomes’ (approximately 10 nm in diameter), which are thought to correspond to the V(1) part of the H(+) V-ATPase. In gastric caeca (pH 8), both antibody-binding sites and portasomes are located apically; in the anterior midgut (pH 10–11), they are located basally; and in the posterior midgut (pH approximately equal to 8) they are again located apically. The hypothesis that the energization of alkalization is mediated by an H(+) V-ATPase is supported by the inability of larvae to maintain the high pH after 72 h in 10 (micro)M bafilomycin B1. Confirming earlier reports, the two principal epithelial cell types are designated as ‘columnar’ and ‘cuboidal’ cells. The apical plasma membranes (microvilli) of epithelial cells in the gastric caeca and basal infoldings of anterior midgut are invaded by mitochondria that lie within approximately 20 nm of the portasome-studded plasma membranes. The colocalization of V-ATPase-immunolabeling sites and portasomes to specific plasma membranes within so-called ‘mitochondria-rich’ cells of gastric caeca and anterior midgut suggests that midgut alkalization in mosquitoes is achieved by molecular mechanisms similar to those that have been described in caterpillars, even though the gross structure of the midgut and the localization of the V-ATPase are dissimilar in the two species. In caterpillars, the high alkalinity is thought to break down dietary tannins, which block nutrient absorption; it may play a similar role in plant-detritus-feeding mosquito larvae. The colocalization of immunolabeling sites and portasomes, together with the presence of long, ‘absorptive-type’ microvilli in the posterior midgut, suggest that the V-ATPase energizes nutrient uptake there.

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