Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Parasite wasps have practiced gene therapy for a hundred million years

Braconid parasite wasps and their caterpillar hosts form a unique host-parasite model: the wasps lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and simultaneously inject some viral particles to get around the host's defenses and control its physiology.

The genes from these viral particles have now been identified in the wasp's own genome by a team at the Institut de recherche sur la biologie de l'insecte (CNRS/Université François-Rabelais Tours), in collaboration with a laboratory at University of Berne and Genoscope d'Evry.

These genes came from a virus captured by a common ancestor of these wasps 100 million years ago. These results, published in Science 13 February 2009, could provide new means of designing transfer vectors for gene therapy.

Wasps of the family Braconidae reproduce by laying their eggs in caterpillars, which then serve as food for the developing wasp larvae (1). However, the body of a caterpillar is a hostile environment, with an efficient defense system that forms a capsule of immune cells around foreign objects. To get around these defenses, when the wasp lays her eggs in the caterpillar, she also injects some special particles made in her ovaries. These particles enter the caterpillar's cells where they induce immunosuppression and control development, allowing the wasp larvae to survive.

Although many examples of symbiotic bacteria are known, the present case of a parasitic species using a virus to control its host's physiology is unique. To improve our understanding of the phenomenon, researchers at the Institut de recherche sur la biologie de l'insecte (CNRS/Université François-Rabelais Tours) are studying these viral particles in detail. In previous work, they had questioned whether the particles were truly viral, as they found that the particle genome lacked the necessary machinery for replication usually found in viruses.

Their most recent findings, published in Science, show that the particles are indeed viral in nature, but that their components lie within the wasp's own genome. More that twenty different genes coding for characteristic components of nudiviruses - insect viruses often used in biological pest control - are expressed in the wasps' ovaries. Furthermore, these genes are conserved in the different kinds of wasp that make these particles.

The results indicate that the ancestor of the braconid wasps integrated the genome of a nudivirus into its own genome. Although these genes continue to produce viral particles, the particles now deliver the wasp's own virulence genes into the parasitized host.

The wasps have therefore "domesticated" a virus to turn it into a vector for transferring their genes. Study of this phenomenon is particularly interesting for the development of new vectors for gene therapy, a therapeutic technique that consists of inserting genes into an individual's cells or tissues to treat an illness. Genes are delivered using a deactivated virus as a vector. The particles from parasite wasps are in fact true "natural" vectors, selected over 100 million years to perform this function and capable of transferring large quantities of genetic material (more than 150 genes). Understanding how they work could therefore be very useful for the design of new therapeutic vectors.

(1) The wasp pierces the caterpillar's skin with a sort of stylet, called an auger. It then lays its eggs inside the body, and the wasp larvae then develop in the caterpillar's blood, on which they feed

Julien Guillaume | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

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...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

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...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>