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UCR entomologists to develop special bacteria to combat spread of mosquito-borne diseases
Date:6/14/2010

p>Most available products exist in the form of a dried powder or liquid suspension in which the bacterium remains active. Widely used on vegetable crops, they are either sprayed from airplanes or hand-held sprayers. When mosquito larvae ingest the product, it destroys their stomachs and the larvae die within two hours. The proteins in the bacterium that kill the larvae are specific for mosquito larvae, attacking only these and certain other flies, nothing else.

Federici explained that his lab was able to accelerate the development of a recombinant bacterial strain by invoking genetic engineering into the research.

"It would probably be impossible to do what we did with just normal selection," he said. "It is far easier to take a gene from one bacterium and insert it into the DNA of another bacterium. Still, it took us ten years to get to this stage. We spent a good amount of time doing basic research to understand what controls the synthesis of mosquito-killing proteins."

To make the recombinant bacteria, Federici's lab constructed "plasmids" small, circular pieces of DNA using techniques developed in his lab as well as by other molecular biologists. The researchers cloned the genes coding for mosquito-killing bacteria from the two bacterial species, Bt and Bs, and then inserted them into the same new plasmid they constructed using genetic engineering techniques. They engineered the genes so that they would produce larger amounts of the desirable proteins. Finally, they injected the plasmid into a bacterium cell, rendering it recombinant (that is, containing genes from two or more different organisms).

Researchers in Federici's lab will use the grant to continue doing basic research on how the bacterium synthesizes the proteins. They also will explore fundamental questions about how the bacterium controls synthesis of these mosquito-killing proteins, as well as why these proteins are so specific for mosquitoes.

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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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UCR entomologists to develop special bacteria to combat spread of mosquito-borne diseases
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