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K-State researchers find gene-silencing nanoparticles may put end to pesky summer pest
Date:7/19/2010

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Summer just wouldn't be complete without mosquitoes nipping at exposed skin. Or would it?

Research conducted by a Kansas State University team may help solve a problem that scientists and pest controllers have been itching to for years.

Kun Yan Zhu, professor of entomology, and teammates Xin Zhang, graduate student in entomology from China, and Jianzhen Zhang, a visiting scientist from Shanxi University, China, investigated using nanoparticles to deliver double-stranded ribonucleic acid, dsRNA -- a molecule capable of specifically triggering gene silencing -- into mosquito larvae through their food. By silencing particular genes, Zhu said the dsRNA may kill the developing mosquitoes or make them more susceptible to pesticides.

Gene silencing triggered by dsRNA or small interfering RNA, siRNA, is known as RNA interference, or RNAi.

"RNAi is a specific and effective approach for loss of function studies in virtually all eukaryotic organisms," Zhu said. Eukaryotic organisms have cells that contain a nucleus within which genetic material is carried and can therefore be manipulated. Almost all animals, plants and fungi are eukaryotes.

Once RNAi is triggered, it destroys the messenger RNA, or mRNA, of a particular gene. This prevents the translation of the gene into its product, silencing it. In the case of Zhu's research, RNAi was used to silence genes responsible for the production of chitin, the principle constituent of the exoskeleton in insects, crustaceans and arachnids.

"Since our RNAi is focused on chitin synthesis, the dsRNA that is delivered into the mosquito larvae can basically block the production of chitin," Zhu said.

Though the silencing is not yet 100 percent effective in their study, Zhu said it does leave the mosquito's body with less ability to combat insecticides, which must penetrate the mosquito's exoskeleton. If the gene, called chitin synthase, could be completel
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Contact: Kun Yan Zhu
kzhu@k-state.edu
785-532-4721
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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