Producing Designer, Species-Specific, Earth-Friendly Pesticides

Molecular Physiology and Neurophysics Group


Project 4

Producing Designer, Species-Specific, Earth-Friendly Pesticides


Like their role in mammals, Nav channels are also essential for invertebrates. We have a long-standing interest in insect physiology and in using arachnid toxins to interrogate membrane protein function. Our focus on insect Nav channels was further heightened by reports from media outlets (2016) of widespread honeybee death in Florida because of insecticide spraying against Zika virus-infected mosquitos. Two years before this event, we identified Dc1a, a toxin from the American desert bush spider Diguetia canities that acts on insect NaV channels but is non-toxic to mammals. Interestingly, Dc1a exploits a locus in the insect channel to incapacitate the German cockroach but not the closely related American cockroach. This proof-of-principle data bodes well for the design of species-selective pesticides. Propelled by the urgent need for a solution to the global pesticide problem, we would now build on our expertise in identifying species-specific toxins to provide a framework for designing natural pesticides.


Frank Bosmans