“Spidey” Gene Could Be Key To Future Pest Control

Jul 6, 2016

Credit UH Pacific Biosciences Research Center
Joanne Yew – Assistant researcher, UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research
Credit UH Pacific Biosciences Research Center

An international team of scientists led by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa may have discovered an effective way to control insect pests which threaten agriculture and humans.  They identified a gene in vinegar flies which is responsible for the insect’s waterproof coating.

Removing the gene cut their lifespan in half, and blocked production of a waxy coating which prevents them from sticking to an object. That action led researchers to nickname the gene “Spidey” after the way Spiderman sticks to walls.  Joanne Yew is with the Pacific Biosciences Research Center of UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology..  She says the process could provide an alternative solution to other methods like pesticide. 

Yew and her colleagues plan to knock out the gene in other pest species which are a major threat to agriculture.  In the future they’ll test mosquitoes which can carry human diseases like Zika and Dengue fever. The findings were recently published in PLoS Genetics.