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Researchers string together players in pesticide resistance orchestra

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University research team has found a set of genes that may orchestrate insects' ability to fight the effects of pesticides.

"Our study suggests that more than one gene may be involved in making insects resistant to certain pesticides," said Barry Pittendrigh, associate professor of entomology. "Using a music analogy, metabolic resistance may not be a single individual playing a single instrument. It's more likely a symphony with numerous instruments playing a role in producing the music."

The ultimate aim of the research is to develop methods to prevent insect damage to plants, he said. Results of the initial study are published in the Tuesday (May 4) issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists looked at approximately 14,000 genes from both metabolically resistant and non-resistant wild-type fruit flies. They identified dozens of genes that were different in resistant fly lines compared to non-resistant wild-type flies, Pittendrigh said. This indicates that a number of genes may be part of the metabolic resistance-causing orchestra, he said.

In metabolic resistance, an organism, in this case an insect, breaks down a toxin that normally might be fatal. Organisms metabolize the toxin or turn it into something that disables the harmful molecules, and then dispose of it.

"We have identified a series of genes that are interesting because the high abundance, or expression, of their genetic traits in resistant flies signifies they may be part of the orchestra that leads to resistance," Pittendrigh said. "But more research must be conducted before we claim whether any of these genes actually cause resistance.

"Another interesting finding that emerged from our study is that a series of genes are common to both resistant insects found in the field and those used in the laboratory. Hypothetically, this could lead to common genes that consistently have the same resistanc
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Contact: Susan A. Steeves
ssteeves@purdue.edu
765-496-7481
Purdue University
4-May-2004


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