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Development of a novel environmentally-friendly strategy for controlling insect pests through targeted disruption of key pest defense processes - PS2137

Description
The overall objective of the work is to develop novel technologies which will protect plants against insect pests, thereby reducing the usage of broad-spectrum, neurotoxic pesticides which are harmful to humans and the environment. We aim to do this by focusing on ways of selectively suppressing key (insect-specific) defences in target pest insect(s) which ordinarily protect them from environmentally-friendly biological control agents (including certain bacteria and fungi). In essence, our work will result in a much needed increase in the efficacy of such biological control agents, making them a viable alternative to the toxic pesticides currently in use.

The majority of insecticides in current use today are broad-spectrum neurotoxins. There are increasing concerns about their deleterious effects on the environment and on non-target organisms, and the emergence of resistant pest insects. In view of this and the imminent withdrawal of certain pesticides, it is accepted that alternatives to these neurotoxins are urgently needed. Biological control agents (such as the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, and the fungus, Beauvaria bassiana), offer an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides; however, producers and end users agree that their efficacy needs to be drastically increased.

Previously, we demonstrated that a recombinant wasp venom protein (VP) can suppress certain key, insect-specific immune responses in lepidopteran pests. Moreover, we also demonstrated that introduction of VP into the haemocoel of two pest Lepidoptera (Lacanobia oleracea and Mamestra brassicae), significantly increases their susceptibility to two commonly used biological control agents, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and the fungus, Beauvaria bassiana. Moreover, we also generated preliminary data which indicates that modified VP (which retains biological activity), achieve a similar effect following ingestion by pest insects. The ability of VP / modified VP to increase the efficacy of biological control agents and to be effective following oral delivery, indicates a potential for commercial uptake and practical use. Moreover, this is further supported by the fact that VP exhibits no toxicity towards a UK beneficial insect (i.e. the honey bee, Apis mellifera).

In view of this, the primary aim of the proposed work is to continue the development of an orally active form VP; in particular, to increase the specific activity of orally active VP. To achieve this, we need to know what happens to VP / modified VP following ingestion by pest insects, and to devise ways of increasing their activity in vivo.

The specific project objectives are as follows:
1.Generate a tool which can be used to track and monitor the levels, location, and functions of VP and modified VP. Specifically, manufacture VP, confirm purity and activity, and use it to raise anti-VP polyclonal antibodies.

2. Use genomic and proteomic techniques to prepare relatively large quantities of a modified VP, for use in bio-assays.

3. Use anti-VP antibodies and bio-assays to determine the rate and/or level of uptake of VP and modified VP from the gut and into the haemocoel of a pest insect. Furthermore, determine if uptake of bio-active factors can be improved (for example, by increasing stability of the bio-active in the gut).

4. Utilise (improved) bio-assays to determine if an injected and an orally ingested modified VP can increase the susceptibility of a pest insect to a biological control agent.

5. Move the work towards commercial uptake.

The approach we have adopted has the potential to lead to the development of novel biological control strategies that are not only effective, but which are also target-specific, environmentally friendly and sustainable. These aims address Defra policy objectives relating to the minimization or eradication of broad spectrum, toxic pesticides (including organophosphates), which in turn responds to professional and public concern about their current and future use. It is anticipated that the results generated from this work will enable us to forge alliances with relevant companies so that they can be further developed into novel, environmentally sensitive and sustainable pest management strategies, which will offer the grower realistic levels of efficacy with negligible chance of adverse impact on the environment.

Objective
The specific project objectives are as follows:
1.Generate a tool which can be used to track and monitor the levels, location, and functions of VP and modified VP. Specifically, manufacture VP, confirm purity and activity, and use it to raise anti-VP polyclonal antibodies.

2. Use genomic and proteomic techniques to prepare relatively large quantities of a modified VP, for use in bio-assays.

3. Use anti-VP antibodies and bio-assays to determine the rate and/or level of uptake of VP and modified VP from the gut and into the haemocoel of a pest insect. Furthermore, determine if uptake of bio-active factors can be improved (for example, by increasing stability of the bio-active in the gut).

4. Utilise (improved) bio-assays to determine if an injected and an orally ingested modified VP can increase the susceptibility of a pest insect to a biological control agent.

5. Move the work towards commercial uptake.
Project Documents
• EXE - Executive Summary : Development of a novel, environmentally-friendly strategy for controlling insect pests through targeted disruption of key pest defence processes.   (90k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2011

To: 2013

Cost: £320,929
Contractor / Funded Organisations
The Food & Environment Research Agency
Keywords
Biological Control              
Biological Effects              
Biopesticide              
Biotechnology              
Biotech-non GM              
Chemicals              
Crop Pests              
Genomics              
Minimisation              
Molecular Biology              
Natural              
Pest Control              
Pesticides              
Fields of Study
Pesticide Safety