Microscopy and studying cellular uptake of dsRNA for improved efficiency

(27-09-2019)

Ghent University, Belgium, September 6th, 2019 – More than 15 scientists from 8 countries, including experts and PhD students in the biotechnology field participated in a 1-day training school organised by the laboratory of Agrozoology embedded in the Department of Plants and Crops at Ghent University.

With increasing demand for more selective and environmentally friendly pest control strategies, researchers are constantly searching for new alternatives to current undesirable pesticides. The possibility to exploit RNA interference (RNAi), a natural biological mechanism, to selectively target pests while leaving beneficial organisms unaffected has attracted interest in the development of sustainable products for crop protection.

To fully understand and develop RNAi-based products for pest control, scientists are constantly studying and improving this technology. One of the main challenges faced is that the efficiency of exploiting RNAi for pest control is quite variable and depends on the pest to be targeted for control.

Demonstration of how pest insects are cultured in the laboratory
Demonstration of how pest insects are cultured in the laboratory

Previous studies have demonstrated that several barriers related to cellular uptake and endosomal release in the cell could impact pest insect sensitivity to the active molecule, which is a double stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecule. As such, the 3rd iPlanta training School organized by the laboratory of Agrozoology was aimed to provide training and best-practice in visualising cellular uptake of fluorescently labelled dsRNA using confocal microscopy. Confocal microscopy is a promising tool used to follow the fate of fluorescently labelled dsRNA, enabling scientists to better understand how these molecules are taken up by different pest insects. Understanding these mechanisms could lead to the development of even more selective RNA-based biocontrol products for crop protection.

Demonstration of cellular uptake of fluorescently labelled dsRNA using confocal microscopy
Demonstration of cellular uptake of fluorescently labelled dsRNA using confocal microscopy

This training school was funded in the framework of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action. The host laboratory with Professor Guy Smagghe as the principal investigator has built a strong reputation over the past decade in both fundamental and applied research in arthropods. The host research group has a wide expertise ranging from fundamental to applied research in insect physiology, RNAi, crop protection, and microscopy.

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