Thinking Outside the Box: Could Spiders Provide a New Generation of Eco-friendly Insecticides?
18 April 2019
- University Campus Bohunice (pavilion A11/ seminar room 132)
Prof. Glenn King
University of Queensland, Australia
The research of Prof. King is focused on exploring the venoms of spiders, centipedes, and scorpions to find novel peptides that can inhibit or activate ion channels. These have the potential to become eco-friendly insecticides or even drugs for some nervous system disorders.
See more information at the webpage of Prof. King´s group.
About the lecture
Insect pests have traditionally been controlled with chemical insecticides. However, the evolution of insecticide resistance and the revocation of key insecticides due to their adverse environmental impacts have created an unmet demand for a new generation of eco-friendly insect control methods.
Spiders are the best insect predators on the planet, and they possess extremely complex venoms that have been fine-tuned by more than 400 million years of evolution. These venoms are replete with peptides that rapidly incapacitate insect prey by targeting ion channels and receptors in the insect nervous system.
By screening a diverse panel of spider venoms we isolated several families of peptide toxins that selectively kill insects of importance to agriculture and public health, but are harmless to bees and vertebrates.
All of these toxins contain a signature structural motif known as an inhibitor cystine knot that provides them with high levels of chemical, thermal and biological stability. Most of these spider-venom peptides target presynaptic ion channels using a variety of different mechanisms.
I will describe the structure and mode of action of these peptides, and demonstrate that they can be employed as bioinsecticides via foliar sprays or by incorporation of peptide-toxin genes into crops or entomopathogens.