Insecticide resistance is a growing threat to mosquito control programs around the world, thus creating the need to discover novel target sites and target-specific compounds for insecticide development. Emerging evidence suggests that mosquito inward rectifier potassium (Kir) channels represent viable molecular targets for developing insecticides with new mechanisms of action. Here we describe the discovery and characterization of VU041, a submicromolar-affinity inhibitor of Anopheles (An.) gambiae and Aedes (Ae.) aegypti Kir1 channels that incapacitates adult female mosquitoes from representative insecticide-susceptible and-resistant strains of An. gambiae (G3 and Akron, respectively) and Ae. aegypti (Liverpool and Puerto Rico, respectively) following topical application. VU041 is selective for mosquito Kir channels over several mammalian orthologs, with the exception of Kir2.1, and is not lethal to honey bees. Medicinal chemistry was used to develop an analog, termed VU730, which retains activity toward mosquito Kir1 but is not active against Kir2.1 or other mammalian Kir channels. Thus, VU041 and VU730 are promising chemical scaffolds for developing new classes of insecticides to combat insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika virus, without harmful effects on humans and beneficial insects.
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