Biotech Updates

Researchers Plot Molecular Sabotage Against Major Grain Pest

November 6, 2009

An international research consortium has recently completed the genome sequence of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, a notorious invader of stored grains and grain products. Aided by the genome map, researchers at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Kansas State University led by Richard W. Beeman have begun plotting a kind of molecular sabotage on the beetle's basic life functions.

The researchers are using RNA interference to shut down the expression of chitin deacetylase (CDA) genes. CDAs regulate the formation of chitin, the main component of the insect's exoskeleton. "We can knock out the function of any one of these particular deacetylase genes and observe whether the insect can survive and exactly how its development is disrupted in the absence of each gene," says Beeman. In early studies, larvae of beetle strains lacking the CDA genes failed to reach adulthood. The researchers are also exploring ways to formulate chitin-disabling pesticides.

The original article is available at