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CRISPR-based technology targets global crop pests

CRISPR-based technology targets global crop pests

The invasive Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly has caused millions of dollars in damage to berries and other crops.Credit: Michelle Bui, University of California, San Diego

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego applied new CRISPR-based technology to a wide range of agricultural needs to target global pests known to destroy valuable food crops.

In 2019, Nikolay Kandul, Omar Akbari and colleagues first demonstrated the Precision Induced Sterile Insect Technology (pgSIT) in Drosophila melanogaster. Controls sex determination and fertility. In the new system, pgSIT-developed insect eggs are placed in targeted populations and only infertile males hatch, thus stalling the species’ fertility.

Kandul, Akbari, and their colleagues proposed a study for use in the Drosophila melanogaster, an invasive fruit fly (also known as the spotted wing fruit fly) responsible for millions of dollars of crop damage. adapted this technique.Progress is documented in the journal GEN Biotechnology.

“It’s a safe, evolutionarily stable system,” said Akbari, a professor in the Department of Cell Developmental Biology at the Faculty of Biological Sciences. “Also, the system does not spread out of control and is not persistent in the environment, both important safety features that help gain approval for use.”

The D. suzukii fly has invaded many parts of the world and caused widespread agricultural and economic damage to several crops such as apples, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, grapes, olives and tomatoes. .

Flies are known to reproduce by laying eggs inside the growing fruit. The larvae are notoriously difficult to control as they feed on the mature pulp, limiting the effectiveness of insecticide sprays. Some flies are known to become resistant to pesticides, and many chemicals used in pesticides are now banned due to threats to human health.

The concept behind pgSIT dates back to the 1930s. This time, farmers found a way to release sterile males into their crops to reduce pest damage. By the mid-20th century, US farmers began using radiation to kill pests such as the New World screwworm fly.

  • CRISPR-based technology targets global crop pests

    Stephanie Gamez, a former UC San Diego graduate student, created this artistic depiction of genetics and fruit pest Drosophila suzukii. Credit: Stephanie Gamez

  • CRISPR-based technology targets global crop pests

    Spotted winged fruit flies lay their eggs inside strawberries and other ripe fruits.Credit: Michelle Bui, University of California, San Diego

By using CRISPR, scientists at the University of California, San Diego sidestepped the need for harmful radiation, and instead used CRISPR editing to develop D. suzukii, a plant essential for female viability and male fertility. We specifically targeted genes. As expected, pgSIT eggs may be produced in factories and released to sites infested by pests such as D. suzukii. The eggs can be unfolded directly onto the site where the flies are inflicting damage, and after about two weeks only sterile males hatch. Emerging in sufficient conditions to compete with males, they immediately seek out females to mate with and produce non-viable offspring.

“This technology replaces the need for pesticides and only suppresses target species populations,” Akbari said. “Over the past four years, he has developed pgSIT for several different species. Going forward, he hopes to use it as a platform technology that can be transplanted to any range of pests to safely solve real-world problems. increase.”

Agragene Inc., a private biotechnology company co-founded by Akbari, has licensed its pgSIT-based technology from the University of California, Riverside (where Akbari first led technology development), and has pgSIT managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. is being tested on D. suzukii. The company hopes that this trial will demonstrate the safety and efficacy of his pgSIT and that the technology will receive regulatory approval for a wide range of agricultural applications.

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For more information:
Nikolay P. Kandul et al, Precision Guided Sterile Males Suppress Populations of an Invasive Crop Pest, GEN Biotechnology (2022). DOI: 10.1089/genbio.2022.0019

Courtesy of University of California, San Diego

Quote: CRISPR-Based Technology Targets Global Crop Pests (18 Aug 2022) 19 Aug 2022 crop-pest.html

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