RESEARCH PROGRAM

Interfering with regulatory mechanisms involved in critical physiological processes such as molting, metamorphosis, diapause and apoptosis can result in the death of pest insects. Studying some of these processes of pest insects at the molecular level will result in identification of targets that can be used for pest management. We plan to use whole genome sequence data from fly, mosquito and moth to identify genes that are physiologically important. The double stranded RNA, RNA probes and antibodies will be used to study developmental and physiological roles of these selected genes. The sequence information can also be used to perform transcriptome, proteome and metabalome analysis to identify new targets sites as well as to perform toxicogenomics and pharmacogenomics that can help to elucidate the effects of candidate pesticides on the pest ecosystem.

Most of the data coming out of basic research can be used to develop various applications. For example, genes that have pest control potential can be used to develop screening assays. The functions of cloned target genes need to be validated prior to their use. Model systems such as Drosophila melanogaster or Caenorhabdis elegans as well as cell lines developed from insects that are economically important can be used for this purpose. The validated target genes then can be used to develop high through put in-vitro or in-vivo screening assays. The validated targets can also be used to develop pest tolerant crops or trees as well as to improve microorganisms that specifically infect insects.

Some of the insect genes or proteins can also be used for other applications that are beneficial to us. We plan to use ecdysone receptors cloned from different species of insects to develop gene switches for applications in transgenic plants, gene therapy, drug discovery, proteomics etc.