Background: Mosquitoes are responsible for disease transmission worldwide. They possess the ability to discriminate between different ecological resources, including nectar sources, animal hosts and oviposition sites, a feature mediated by their olfactory system. Insect repellents, such as N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (also called DEET), have been shown to activate and inhibit mosquito odorant receptors, resulting in behavioral modulation. This and other repellents currently available for personal protection against mosquitoes are topically applied to the skin and operate at a short range. In our search for potential long-range inhibitors of attractants to human hosts, we have hypothesized that the shared chemical similarities between indole and DEET may confer the former with the ability to block odorant receptor function and inhibit human host attraction in a similar way as DEET. Methods: We used the two-electrode voltage clamp system to assay Xenopus laevis oocytes as a platform to compare the pharmacological effect of commercially available insect repellents and indole on the Aedes aegypti (R)-1-octen-3-ol receptor, OR8, a receptor involved in the decision-making of female mosquitoes to identify human hosts. We also conducted arm-in-a-cage and wind-tunnel bioassays to explore the effect of indole on human host-seeking female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Results: Our results demonstrate that indole inhibited the Aedes aegypti (R)-1-octen-3-ol receptor OR8. In our arm-in-a-cage assay, 1 M of DEET reduced mosquito visits on average by 69.3% while the same indole concentration achieved 97.8% inhibition. This effect of indole on flight visits was dose-dependent and disappeared at 1 μM. In the flight tunnel, indole elicited on average 27.5% lower speed, 42.3% lower upwind velocity and 30.4% higher tortuosity compared to the control. Conclusions: Indole significantly inhibits OR8 activation by (R)-1-octen-3-ol, mosquito visits to a human hand and long-range human host-seeking. The volatility of indole may be leveraged to develop a novel insect repellent in the context of personal mosquito protection. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]
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- Aedes aegypti