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Gene technology helps deceive greedy pest insects
Date:7/31/2012

Worldwide cabbage farmers have vast problems with the diamond-back moth. It lays its eggs on the cabbage plants and the voracious appetite of the larvae ruins the yield. However, Morten Emil Mldrup from the University of Copenhagen has developed a method to deceive the greedy insects. Mldrup presents his spectacular research results at a public PhD defense on Friday 3 August.

"We have discovered a way to cheat the diamond-back moths to lay their eggs on tobacco plants. As their larvae cannot survive on tobacco leaves they will soon starve to death. In the mean time you can cultivate your cabbage at peace," explains MSc in Biology and Biotechnology Morten Emil Mldrup from DynaMo, Center for Dynamic Molecular Interactions, University of Copenhagen.

It sounds like an imaginative scenario too good to be true. None the less Morten Emil Mldrup and his colleagues from DynaMo at University of Copenhagen have shown that it is indeed possible 'to cheat' the greedy little insects in exactly this way. Morten Emil Mldrup has studied the defence compounds of the cabbage family, the so called glucosinolates, exhaustively. Glucosinolates are toxic to cabbage pests in general, the diamond-back moth being one of very few exemptions.

Away with pesticides

The odour of the cabbage defense compounds attracts the pregnant diamond-back moths. To them the 'defence odour' is a signal of an ideal place to lay their eggs. In this way they ensure their larvae plenty of food without competition from others. After having thoroughly established how a cabbage plants produces defence compounds, Morten Emil Mldrup and his colleagues have successfully transferred the genes responsible for the production of glucosinolates from cabbage into tobacco plants.

"Our experiments show that it is indeed possible to fool the diamond-back moth to lay its eggs on tobacco plants. This is fantastic because the larvae are a major problem all over the world. At
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Contact: Morten Emil Mldrup
moem@life.ku.dk
45-61-30-93-20
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

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