Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

The Emergence of New Crop Pests: Genetics in Action

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Scientists discover the genetic mechanisms that allow aphids to adapt to a new host plant and provide natural resistance to neonicotinoid insecticides.

Insect host shifts are important because they may be a first step in the evolution of new species and can create new pests of agriculturally important crops. A barrier to many potential insect host shifts are the secondary metabolites or allelochemicals many plants produce in order to defend themselves from plant feeding (herbivorous) pests like aphids. Consequently, insect pests can only be successful in using such plant species as food if they develop mechanisms to overcome sensitivity to the defense compounds that a plant is releasing.

Identifying the initial genetic changes involved in this process has proved elusive. Rothamsted Research scientists, who receive strategic funding from the BBSRC, in collaboration with researchers from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Bayer CropScience AG in Germany, have characterised novel genetic changes that underlie an insect host shift and the emergence of a new subspecies of crop pest with natural resistant to pesticides. The study is published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The peach potato aphid (Myzus persicae) is a major crop pest, one of the most common greenfly pests within the UK and globally. It can cause substantial crop yield losses through the transmission of up to 120 distinct plant viruses and/or directly through feeding and sucking the sap of plants. A subspecies of peach potato aphid (Myzus percicae nicotianae) has evolved to feed and survive on tobacco plants. Aphids of this subspecies show reduced sensitivity to the secondary metabolite nicotine, which is a potent natural insecticide produced by tobacco. Interestingly, these aphids also show reduced sensitivity to neonicotinoids a class of synthetic insecticides. This study aimed to identify how aphids manage to overcome the toxic effects of the tobacco-produced nicotine and understand how this relates to resistance to neonicotinoids.

Dr Chris Bass of Rothamsted Research, who is funded by a fellowship from the BBSRC, and led the study said: "We are excited that for the first time we have been able to characterise the genetic mutations involved in the initial steps of the host shift of the peach potato aphid to tobacco. We found that a detoxification enzyme called CYP6CY3, which is naturally present in all aphids, is responsible for the metabolism of nicotine to less toxic compounds. However, for this process to occur at significant levels that allow survival of aphids that feed on tobacco plants the gene producing this enzyme needs to be present in many more copies than the normal two copies, up to 100 copies in the most resistant aphids.

"In addition to the gene amplification we have also been able to show that changes in the part of the gene that gives information as to when and where the enzyme should be made (i.e. the regulatory region of CYP6CY3) contribute to the overexpression of the gene. Together these two mechanisms work in concert to produce high levels of the enzyme which breakdowns nicotine and has also pre-adapted tobacco-adapted races to resist man-made insecticides".

Professor Lin Field of Rothamsted Research said: "The findings of this study are very exciting because they provide novel insights into the fundamental evolutionary processes that have driven adaptation in an aphid and similar mechanisms may be employed by other insect species. Additionally, we now have further understanding of the molecular mechanisms that can drive insecticide resistance and this can be utilised when developing pest management strategies."

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,100+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

£9M Funding to Optimise UK Food Supply
Five research prjects have been awarded a portion of £9M to help increase resilience in UK food systems.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
£4.5M Newton Fund to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
Six research partnerships tackling the rise of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) have been created with £4.5M investment by the UK Research Councils.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Major Pathogen of Barley Decoded
A team of scientists studying the fungus that causes Ramularia leaf spot have sequenced and explored its genome.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
UK-Brazil Wheat Research Projects Awarded £4M
£4M investment from BBSRC and Embrapa has been awarded to four Brazil-UK partnerships.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Protein Boosts Rice Yield by 54%
Over-expression of a natural protein in rice plants led to a 54% increase in crop yield and 40% increase in nitrogen-use efficiency.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Expanding the DNA Alphabet: 'Extra' DNA Base Found to be Stable in Mammals
A rare DNA base, previously thought to be a temporary modification, has been shown to be stable in mammalian DNA, suggesting that it plays a key role in cellular function.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Controlling Leaf Blotch Disease In Wheat
Scientists have found a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of a "devastating" disease threatening wheat crops.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Rising Temperatures Predicted to Lower Wheat Yields
An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects climate change on global wheat yields.
Friday, December 26, 2014
UK And India Collaborate On Future-Proof Crops
Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Better Understanding of Disease Resistance Genes in Crops
Effector-triggered defence concept describes how plants protect themselves against the apoplast.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Public-private Research Partnership to Support Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The partnership will support projects that will help provide solutions to key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Friday, May 23, 2014
A Synthetic Biology Approach to Improve Photosynthesis
Assembling a compartment inside chloroplasts of flowering plants has the potential to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Green Vaccination: Boosting Plant Immunity Without Side Effects
A team of international researchers has uncovered a mechanism by which plants are able to better defend themselves against disease causing pathogens.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Rothamsted Research Granted Permission for new GM Field Trial
Permission granted by Defra for Rothamsted to carry out a field trial with GM Camelina plants that produce omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.
Monday, April 28, 2014
BBSRC, NSF Co-Fund International Arabidopsis Resource

Friday, March 14, 2014
Scientific News
Integrated Omics Analysis
Studying multi-omics promises to give a more holistic picture of the organism and its place in its ecosystem, however despite the complexities involved those within the field are optimistic.
New Mechanism of Plant RNA Degradation Identified
Researchers have identified a novel mechanism by which RNA is degraded.
Enlisting Insects to Protect Agriculture
New program aims for insect delivery of protective genes to modify mature plants within a single growing season.
New Model for Understanding Human Myeloma
Researchers develop mouse model where mice carry six human genes involved in human tumour growth.
3D-Printing in Science: Conference Co-Staged with LABVOLUTION
LABVOLUTION 2017 will have an added highlight of a simultaneous conference, "3D-Printing in Science".
Ethical Challenges of Genome Editing
A review of bioethics idnetifies two top challenges for genome editing.
Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe
Study finds genetically engineered crop's risk to human health and the environment are no different than conventional crops.
Nimbolide Could Suppress Prostate Cancer Development
Oral administration of nimbolide over 12 weeks shows reduction of prostate tumour size and decrease in tumour metastasis.
Modified Yeast Shows Plant Response to Key Hormone
Researchers have developed a toolkit based on modified yeast to determine plant responses to auxin.
New Discovery May Benefit Farmers Worldwide
Scientists have shown how a crop-microbe 'team' protect against fungal infection.

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,100+ scientific videos