WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, May 6, 2004 (ENS): A Purdue University
research team has found a set of genes that may orchestrate
insects' ability to fight the effects of pesticides.
The study of fruit flies "suggests that more than
one gene may be involved in making insects resistant
to certain pesticides," said Barry Pittendrigh,
associate professor of entomology.
"Using a music analogy, metabolic resistance may
not be a single individual playing a single instrument,"
he added. "It is more likely a symphony with numerous
instruments playing a role in producing the music."
Pittendrigh said the ultimate aim of the research is
to develop methods to prevent insect damage to plants.
Results of the initial study are published in the May
4 issue of "Proceedings of the National Academy
The researchers looked at some 14,000 genes from both
metabolically resistant and non-resistant wild-type
They identified dozens of genes that were different
in resistant fly lines compared to non-resistant wild-type
Joao Pedra, an entomology doctoral student and lead
author of the paper, said data from the study suggest
that more than one detoxification gene is over-expressed
in resistant insects.
"Different resistant fly lines also may have different
levels of expression of these genes," Pedra said.
"This may affect how resistant they are to a pesticide."
Knowing genes involved in resistance and their relationship
to each other would provide scientists with information
needed to develop ways to halt insects' detoxification
of chemicals designed to kill them.
"It would be great if we would ultimately identify
a 'conductor' gene that is critical for directing the
biochemical processes that allow insects to detoxify
pesticides," Pittendrigh said. "A gene or
genes that may be critical for resistance, in turn,
may become targets, enabling us to develop compounds
to control pesticide resistant insects."