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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 02, 2005
End Date: Dec 01, 2010

This project is focused on the development of fungal, bacterial, and viral microbial entomopathogens as effective agents for biological control of pest insects of significance to American agriculture. The research objectives address comprehensive development of microbial entomopathogens as biological pesticides through three broad objectives: 1) the characterization of microbial entomopathogens through determination of biological and molecular traits of microbial entomopathogens (fungi, bacteria, and viruses); discovery and description of pathogenic genes that may be conserved among similar species to facilitate their use in biological control; and contribution to taxonomic characterization and identification of genes relating to efficacy of microbial entomopathogens as control agents; 2) the evaluation of molecular and cellular mechanisms of pathogenesis and virulence utilized by microbial entomopathogens; improved knowledge of how microbial entomopathogens disable pest insect hosts; and facilitation of their utilization for biocontrol through understanding mechanisms behind pathogenesis and virulence; and 3) the development of applied technologies for use of microbial entomopathogens as biopesticides; improved utilization practices for insect pathogens; and the testing of microbial entomopathogens’ functional roles in insect pest management.

Comprehensive development of microbial entomopathogens as biological pesticides will include diverse methodologies. In particular, molecular and genetic evaluation of the composition of a broad array of microbial entomopathogens (fungi, bacteria, and viruses) will be undertaken in order to identify microbials’ genetic composition and the key genes responsible for their ability to cause detrimental effects in insect pests; to identify and differentiate pathogenic from non-pathogenic microbial strains; and to inform the selection of improved or more virulent microbial isolates for biological control. Microbial entomopathogens’ gene and gene-product functions in the pest hosts will be assessed using state-of-the-art molecular and genomic technologies, including cDNA library development, genetic and phenotypic microarrays, genetic marker development, and RNAi or other functional methods, in order to understand the molecular and functional basis for their pathogenesis and virulence in the insect pest. The gene response to microbial entomopathogens of at least one pest insect will be assessed through the same technologies. Improved cell-based technologies will be developed for augmented microbial production and enhanced microbial utilization. New insect cell lines will be developed as needed tools to study agriculturally and medically important insects. The efficacy of microbial entomopathogens and their gene products, including toxins, for biocontrol of agricultural insect pests will be evaluated through testing in both controlled laboratory bioassay and small-scale field studies. These microbial entomopathogen analyses will expand our understanding of diverse microbial-insect pest interactions and enable development of useable safe tested biological pesticides for deployment to control insects in pest management systems.

Last Modified: 10/6/2015
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