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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Biological Control of Insects Research » Research » Research Project #429499

Research Project: Insect Biotechnology Products for Pest Control and Emerging Needs in Agriculture

Location: Biological Control of Insects Research

Project Number: 5070-22000-037-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 19, 2015
End Date: Aug 18, 2020

Objective:
Objective 1. Develop dsRNA (i.e., RNAi-based gene silencing) and, potentially, other genetic constructs to silence eicosanoid signaling and other immune-related genes in pest insect species, including the squash bug. Subobjective 1A: Clone, express and characterize a recombinant PLA2 from the squash bug, Anasa tristis and other pest insect species and test the influence of silencing PLA2 on standard immune parameters. Subobjective 1B: Identify, clone and silence POX genes in squash bugs, then determine the influence of gene silencing on selected cellular immune parameters. Subobjective 1C: Determine the influence of suppressing insect immune signaling on pest insect life history. Objective 2. Use conventional and molecular methods to develop and optimize western corn rootworm artificial diets. Subobjective 2A. Improve and standardize an artificial diet for rearing the western corn rootworm. Subobjective 2B. Determine molecular and cellular components contributing to WCR survival of Bt intoxication. Objective 3. Improve control of western corn rootworm with the entomopathogenic nematode Heterorhabdidtis bacteriophora by determining the influence of local soil and climate conditions on the survival of the nematode, and the attractiveness of the nematode to the corn root alarm signal (E)-ß-caryophyllene. Objective 4. Establish research-ready cell lines from midgut and other tissues of corn rootworm, fall armyworm, and other pest insect species in support of biotechnology (e.g. RNAi research) products for pest control.

Approach:
1A. Squash bug PLA2 will be cloned, expressed and characterized with respect to temperature, pH, and substrate specificity. Gene expression in selected tissues, and the influence of microbial infections on gene expression, will be determined. Gene silencing of PLA2(s) will be conducted to determine its influence on one or more cellular immune reactions. 1B. Squash bug peroxinectin genes will be identified and tissue- and life-stage specificity determined. Quantitative methods, such as microaggregation and nodulation assays, will be developed to test for suppression of specific immune parameters resulting from silencing POX genes. 1C. Survivorship time will be measured to determine changes in susceptibility to infection in insects that are immunosuppressed by injection with pharmaceutical eicosanoid biosynthesis inhibitors, or dsRNA gene-silencing constructs. Treated and control insects will be artificially infected with known doses of selected microbes. 2A. Improvement of an artificial diet for rearing and bioassays of the western corn rootworm (WCR) will be developed by optimizing diet texture, presentation, feeding stimulants, pH, nutrients, anti-microbial compounds, and WCR development time. RNA-seq analysis will be used to direct optimization of performance traits. 2B. Expression- or sequence-variant based differences associated with survival of Bt intoxication by resistant larvae will be identified and confirmed by documenting gene expression differences between diet-reared Bt-resistant and susceptible larvae. 3. Entomopathogenic nematodes most infectious for WCR will be determined using mortality bioassays. Entomopathogenic nematode strains most responsive to maize root attractants will be selected using olfactometer choice assay methods. WCR infesting entomopathogenic nematodes will be selected for enhanced overwintering capability and improved desiccation survival. 4. Various standard tissue dissociation techniques will be used, alone or in combination, to generate new insect cell lines. A variety of media and/or media supplements will be assessed for cell attachment and proliferation. Specialized cell culture flasks or plates coated with attachment factors and/or containing gels for 3D support will be tested for their ability to facilitate cell attachment and proliferation. Plate inserts to co-culture tissue explants with previously established cell lines or selected tissues will be evaluated.