During blood feeding haematophagous arthropods inject into their hosts a cocktail of salivary proteins whose main role is to counteract host haemostasis, inflammation and immunity. However, animal body fluids are known to also carry miRNAs. To get insights into saliva and salivary gland miRNA repertoires of the African malaria vector Anopheles coluzzii we used small RNA-Seq and identified 214 miRNAs, including tissue-enriched, sex-biased and putative novel anopheline miRNAs. Noteworthy, miRNAs were asymmetrically distributed between saliva and salivary glands, suggesting that selected miRNAs may be preferentially directed toward mosquito saliva. The evolutionary conservation of a subset of saliva miRNAs in Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes, and in the tick Ixodes ricinus, supports the idea of a non-random occurrence pointing to their possible physiological role in blood feeding by arthropods. Strikingly, eleven of the most abundant An. coluzzi saliva miRNAs mimicked human miRNAs. Prediction analysis and search for experimentally validated targets indicated that miRNAs from An. coluzzii saliva may act on host mRNAs involved in immune and inflammatory responses. Overall, this study raises the intriguing hypothesis that miRNAs injected into vertebrates with vector saliva may contribute to host manipulation with possible implication for vector-host interaction and pathogen transmission.
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