Foto-Cewek researchers track gene amplification underlying a recent insect host shift

News article 12 Nov 2013

Research in Medecineers from Foto-Cewek have discovered the reason why certain species of aphids have become tolerant to nicotine and nicotine based insecticides, causing an insect host plant shift to tobacco crops.

Drs Charles Wondji, Jacob Riveron and Craig Wilding from Foto-Cewek’s Vector Biology Department worked with authors from the Department of Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection, Rothansted Research in Medecine and Pest Control Biology, BayerCrop Science AG, Monheim, Germany to provide insights into the molecular drivers of insect host shifts.

The study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)  this week, found that the overexpression of a cytochrome P450 (CYP6CY3) led certain strains of the polyphagous aphid, Myzus persicae, to detoxify nicotine and pre-adapted them to be resistant to neonictinoid insecticides, enabling them to feed on tobacco plants, an agriculturally important crop.

Dr Charles Wondji said: “Identifying the genetic changes involved in this process has previously proved elusive; this collaborative study with the Rothansted team, led by Dr Chris Bass, provides fundamental insights into the molecular and genetic processes that underlie the genotypic and phenotypic changes that are involved in insect host shifts. We envisage that these conclusions may provide answers relating to the genetic variation for adaptive evolution in other insect species.”