Genetic control of invasive insect species: phase I
Michael Smanski, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
In this project, researchers are working towards genetic control of a major fruit pest, the spotted wing drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii), by interfering with its ability to reproduce. By preventing new generations from developing, this technology has the potential to drastically reduce Minnesota’s spotted wing drosophila population.
The new method will first be tested in the common fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and later adapted to SWD. If successful in the lab, the technology holds promise for field application tests (phase II) and future expansion into other pest and insect models. Research will also produce valuable secondary information about the genetic diversity within seasonal spotted wing drosophila populations, which could help determine the starting point of invasion.
- Can genetic engineering produce males of D. melanogaster that prevent wild-type females from reproducing?
- Can genetic engineering produce males of spotted wing drosophila that prevent wild-type females from reproducing?
- What level of genetic diversity is observed in local seasonal populations of the spotted wing drosophila?
The long-term goal of this work is to develop a new genetic technology for use in the biocontrol of various invasive insects and diseases. The technology also has important implications for preventing GMO gene flow.
The SWD model of this project will provide relief to the Minnesota fruit production industry, which loses millions of dollars annually to the pest. This project fits into a multi-phase plan. Success in phase I will provide experimental evidence that the system works in tightly controlled laboratory environments. The future phase II will incorporate greenhouse trials, stress testing and additional safety measures. The long-term goal of this research is a EPA/USDA-approved field trial.
Michael Smanski, principal investigator
News & Publications
- ‘A plague to be reckoned with’: UMN research creates a buzz with invasive fruit fly research (Minnesota Daily, Nov. 2020)
- Engineering species-like barriers to sexual reproduction (Nature Communications, 2017)
"Synthetic species made to shun sex with wild organisms" (Nature News)