With their chitinous shells, insects seem almost invulnerable – but like Achilles’ heel in Greek mythology, their impressive armor can still be attacked. Researchers at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig studied fruit flies (Drosophila) and discovered the molecular processes that are able to break through this protective casing. The enzyme chitinase 2 and growth factor idgf6 are especially important in correctly forming the insects’ shells. These findings are relevant for fighting parasites, and will be published in the professional journal “Scientific Reports.”
The same things that work with fruit flies (Drosophila) – one of developmental biologists’ favorite animals to study – can generally also be applied to other insects. The deactivation of chitinase 2 and/or idgf6 genes results in a fragile shell that does not support adequate protection for larva of fruit flies and very likely other insects such as mosquitos.
“Pathogens can then easily infiltrate the animals, and they usually die during the larval stage,” says Assistant Professor Dr. Matthias Behr, who transferred from the Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES) Institute at his alma mater in Bonn to the Sächsische Inkubator für die klinische Translation (SIKT) at the University of Leipzig. The project was financed with funding from Special Research Area 645 at the University of Bonn.
The objective: tailor-made inhibitors
The current discovery offers completely new starting points for keeping agricultural parasites as well as dangerous disease-carrying insects in check. The enzyme chitinase 2 and growth factor idgf6 are essential for shell formation in nearly all insects, as well as in arthropods like crabs and spiders.
“However, there are minor species-related differences that could allow us to develop tailor-made inhibitors that will prevent proper development of the chitinous shell in certain species,” says first author Yanina-Yasmin Pesch from the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn. Specially developed substances could be used to attack the chitinous covering of one arthropod species while leaving other species unharmed.
Dr. Behr names two examples of possible applications: the spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) that recently migrated to Germany, and the new Zika virus pathogen. The spotted-wing drosophila causes enormous damage for the agricultural industry because it attacks a large volume of ripening fruit. The Zika virus is transmitted to people through mosquito bites. This virus is suspected of causing birth defects in Brazil, among other places. The researchers hope their discovery will make it easier to fight these kinds of dangerous insects in the future.
Supposed degradation enzyme helps build up shells
The researchers from the universities of Bonn and Leipzig, as well as from the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, turned up one other surprising find: “Until now, scientists assumed that chitinase 2 was a degradation enzyme,” reports Pesch. “But surprisingly, it has now been found that the enzyme is essential in forming the chitinous shell.” When the protective casing is being created, chitinase shortens the chitin to the right length. The precisely tailored components are then combined with other materials to build the shell.
As the team of researchers already showed in a previous study, the “Obstructor-A” protein plays a key role here. Like a construction-site manager, it makes sure that various building materials are added to the protective shell in the right places. “Step by step, our research is revealing molecular details about the insects’ Achilles heel,” says Dr. Behr.
Publication: Chitinases and Imaginal disc growth factors organize the extracellular matrix formation at barrier tissues in insects, professional journal “Scientific Reports”
Assistant Professor Dr. Matthias Behr
Sächsischer Inkubator für die klinische Translation (SIKT)
University of Leipzig
M.Sc. Yanina-Yasmin Pesch
Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES) Institute
http://www.nature.com/articles/srep18340 Publication online
Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences