SAN FRANCISCO -- Cornell University researchers have taken a first step in developing safe and effective birth control for America's number-one household pest, the cockroach. The entomologists say they have identified and cloned a key gene in the reproductive system of the male cockroach.
Success in cloning five P450 genes from the German cockroach was announced by Zhimou Wen today (March 28) at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) at the Moscone Convention Center, in San Francisco. Wen is a graduate student working in the laboratory of Jeffrey G. Scott, professor of entomology in Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
"Cockroaches - specifically, the brown-banded and the German cockroaches - are the number-one urban household pest in terms of frequency," Scott explained in an interview before the ACS meeting. "They are the target of tons of neurotoxin pesticides every year but they keep coming back for more. What we really need is an effective, nontoxic treatment - a birth-control method - to reduce cockroach populations without bothering other insects or humans, either."
Scott admitted surprise that one of the genes - named CYP6L1 - has a reproductive function, although exactly what that function is remains uncertain. The entomology professor and graduate student have been studying German cockroach (Blattella germanica) genes in the P450 "superfamily" of genes, Scott said, noting that virtually all living organisms - from bacteria to plants to mammals, including humans - have P450 genes and their functions are not well understood. The two researchers were the first to clone P450 genes from the cockroach, then tried to learn at which stage of the insect's development the genes are "expressed." This, in turn, could lead to the identification of specific proteins with definite metabolic functions.
Initially their tests showed that CYP6L1 was expressed in adult cockroaches, while subsequent tests found
Contact: Roger Segelken
Cornell University News Service