The urban-adapted underground mosquito Culex pipiens form molestus maintains exogenously influenceable circadian rhythms

Natalie R. Epstein, Kevin Saez, Asya Polat, Steven R. Davis, Matthew L. Aardema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Genes known to affect circadian rhythms (i.e. ‘clock genes’) also influence the photoperiodic induction of overwintering reproductive diapause in the northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens f. pipiens. This suggests that molecular changes in one or more clock genes could contribute to the inability to diapause in a second form of this mosquito, Culex pipiens f. molestus. Temperate populations of Cx. pipiens f. molestus inhabit underground locations generally devoid of predictable photoperiods. For this reason, there could be limited fitness consequences if the hypothesized molecular changes to its clock genes also eliminated this mosquito’s ability to regulate circadian rhythms in response to photoperiod variation. Here, we demonstrate that in contrast to this prediction, underground derived Cx. pipiens f. molestus retain exogenously influenceable circadian rhythms. Nonetheless, our genetic analyses indicate that the gene Helicase domino (dom) has a nine-nucleotide, in-frame deletion specific to Cx. pipiens f. molestus. Previous work has shown that splice variants in this gene differentially influence circadian behavior in Drosophila melanogaster. We also find derived, non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in eight genes that may also affect circadian rhythms and/or diapause induction in Cx. pipiens f. molestus. Finally, four putative circadian genes were found to have no quantifiable expression during any examined life stage, suggesting potential regulatory effects. Collectively, our findings indicate that the distinct, but molecularly interconnected life-history traits of diapause induction and circadian rhythms are decoupled in Cx. pipiens f. molestus and suggest this taxon may be a valuable tool for exploring exogenously influenced phenotypes in mosquitoes more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb242231
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Clock genes
  • Culicidae
  • Diapause
  • Helicase domino
  • Life-history traits
  • Photoperiod


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