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Lindsey Perkin - Research Summaries     [back]

Tribolium castaneum cysteine peptidase project
Tribolium castaneum, or the red floor beetle, is a destructive pest to stored grains worldwide. The success of T. castaneum can be contributed to its modified digestive system with an acidic anterior gut and cysteine proteases specifically designed to overcome the serine protease inhibitors in grains and cereals. The T. castaneum genome predicts over 20 cysteine peptidase genes, with most found in clusters across the genome. Based on biochemical analysis it is likely that most of these genes do not become functional proteins, yet all are actively transcribed. My project uses sequencing technology and RNAseq analysis to identify which cysteine peptidase genes are upregulated during different stages of beetle development and where in the insect they are most actively transcribed. Understanding the complex biology of beetle digestion will lead to potential targets for pest control.
Anisopteromalus calandrae venom components
Anisopteromalus calandrae is a parasitoid wasp that uses stored product pests, such as the lesser grain borer, to complete its life cycle. Female A. calandrae drill through infected kernels and oviposit on host larvae. At the same time, paralyzing venom is injected that preserves host tissue. The egg develops into a larva that then devours the host. This biological strategy has implications for pest control, however, the proteins in A. calandrae venom have not been studied. I am interested in identifying venom components via transcriptome sequencing of the A. calandrae venom gland.
Phosphine resistance genes in Tribolium castaneum
A common control strategy for agricultural pests is phosphine fumigation. The continued use of phosphine in some areas has led to many pest species, including Tribolium castaneum, developing resistance. Recent work has identified genes that change expression during and after phosphine exposure. My contribution to this project is to use RNAi to functionally test the importance of these genes in phosphine resistance. This will lead to a better understanding of how insects adapt to pesticide treatment and how we can develop better control strategies for agricultural pests in the future.