Programming for Evolutionary Biology Conference 2015 edition:1 location:Vairao (Portugal) date:27 April - 1 may 2015
Just like animals, insects also make use of digestive enzymes to obtain their essential amino acids through the digestion of food proteins. Because the generation of free amino acids is critical for the growth and development of the insect, the digestive system would be a very interesting target for the development of new (bio)pesticides. A very promising method of blocking the digestive process in the insect gut was found in their host plants. Plant protease inhibitors (PIs) are major components of the natural plant defensive mechanisms. When present in the insect gut, these antimetabolites can block the hydrolyses of food proteins which will lead to a state of amino acid deficiency in the insect. Despite being very promising, successful use of this method in crop protection has been hindered by the ability of most insects to adequately respond to the uptake of these inhibitors. These rapid counterdefenses are the result of a long coevolution between insects and their host plants. Although these responses have been described in detail in most insects, the regulation of these adaptive mechanisms is still poorly understood. It has become clear that if we want to target the digestive system of insects in future methods of pest management, we will have to improve our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms driving this physiological process. In this project, we will create a transcriptome profile of the midgut of the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), an infamous pest insect, using RNA-Sequencing. This will give a crucial insight in how the digestion and the PI induced responses are regulated. The generated data can eventually lead to the detection of essential components which can be targeted for combating pest insects.