Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Bacterial toxins harnessed for bioinsecticides and medicine


Bacterial toxins harnessed for bioinsecticides and medicine


5 August 2013

New Zealand and Australian scientists have found a new way in which bacteria store and release toxins, and their discovery may be harnessed to develop new bioinsecticides for crop pests and even new medicines.

The team, led by Dr Shaun Lott from The University of Auckland and Dr Mark Hurst at AgResearch in Lincoln, studied how the bacterium Yersinia entomophaga kills crop pests such as grass grubs, diamondback moths and porina caterpillars.

In the process, they discovered a new way in which the bacterium packages its insect-killing toxin in a hollow protein shell. Their work was published overnight in the leading scientific journal Nature.

The work was done primarily by AgResearch-funded University of Auckland PhD student Jason Busby, as part of his doctoral thesis supervised by Drs Lott and Hurst. The scientists used high-resolution x-ray crystallography and electron microscopy to determine the three-dimensional structure of proteins produced by the bacterium.

They found that the proteins form a hollow shell that releases the toxin only when it encounters specific environmental conditions, such as those found in the gut of crop pests. This explains how the bacterium can produce toxins without harming itself, and release them only when needed.

The genetic sequence that provides the blueprint for the shell is also found in many other species, including animals, and the researchers believe they have discovered a new biological mechanism by which toxins or other sensitive molecules may be stored and released.

Dr Lott explains that, based on the discovery, scientists may be able to generate new insecticides or even new medicines: “This is a mechanism for delivery, and you could pack whatever you want into the shell. You could develop different toxins for use as bioinsecticides, or package therapeutic molecules that you want to deliver only in specific conditions,” he says.

The bacterium Yersinia entomophaga was originally discovered in the native New Zealand grass grub by AgResearch scientist Dr Hurst. It was subsequently found to affect other insect pests such as the diamondback moth which damages crop pests worldwide, and the potential for its use as a new form of insecticide piqued the researchers’ interest.
ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Grey Power: Is Disappointed To Learn Of More Bank Closures

Many older people are being left without essential services because of cost cutting and the march of modern technology. It is now expected that most banking transactions can occur via the internet or telephone. Jan Pentecost, President of the Grey Power ... More>>

ALSO:

Economy: Supply Chain On Brink Of Overload Says National Road Carriers

The New Zealand supply chain is on the brink of overload and it looks like the upcoming peak imports season may push it over the edge says National Road Carriers Association (NRC) CEO David Aitken. “Worldwide supply chains are in disarray,” says Mr Aitken. ... More>>

Retail: Supermarkets Announced As Government’s Second Market Study

The Government has today launched a market study to ensure New Zealanders are paying a fair price for groceries. More>>

ALSO:

Statistics New Zealand: Retail Sales Recover In The September 2020 Quarter

Retail sales values recorded the largest September quarter rise since the series began in 1995, Stats NZ said today. Spending on major household items, vehicles, and groceries contributed to the strong 7.4 percent ($1.8 billion) rise in total ... More>>

Kea Aerospace: New Zealand Flies Into The Stratosphere

Development has started on a solar-powered, unmanned aircraft that can fly in the stratosphere continuously for months at a time. The zero-emission aircraft will carry a suite of imagery equipment that will be game-changing for many industries, vastly ... More>>

Stats NZ: Births And Deaths: Year Ended September 2020

Births and deaths releases provide statistics on the number of births and deaths registered in New Zealand, and selected fertility and mortality rates. Key facts For the year ended September 2020: 57,753 live births and 32,670 deaths ... More>>

ALSO:


Forest & Bird: Kākāpō Wins Bird Of The Year 2020

The nation has voted and Aotearoa New Zealand has a new Bird of the Year. New Zealand’s moss-colored flightless parrot has climbed to the top-spot for the second time in Forest & Bird’s annual Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau/Bird of the Year competition. ... More>>