Pest Management Publications
Modifying the genes of mosquitoes can transform these pests into a weapon capable of fighting disease. Zika, dengue and chikungunya are all viral diseases spread by the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Because there are no cures for these viruses, health officials are eager to find new methods to slow their spread. Genetically engineered mosquitoes are being studied as a tool for this reason.
Scientists are modifying the genome of A. aegypti mosquitoes by inserting a gene into the insect that prevents its offspring from surviving to adulthood. This gene, tTAV (tetracycline repressible transactivator variant), makes a non-toxic protein that essentially ties up the machinery inside the insect’s cells, so that genes key to survival are not expressed and the insect dies.
The previous issue of the IPM Chronicle discussed the development of gene editing techniques to enhance crops. The discussion will now turn to a molecular technique that provides the ability to turn off (silence) genes within an organism’s cells. This process of silencing genes can be accomplished through a process called ribonucleic acid interference or RNAi.
Developed in the 1990s, RNAi is now being studied as a tool for managing various pest species. So what is RNAi, and how exactly can it be used for pest management? Before these questions can be answered, one must first understand the connection between DNA and proteins.