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Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Applications of aegerolysin-like proteins for detection and eradication of pests

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.03.00  Biotechnical sciences  Plant production   

Code Science Field
B390  Biomedical sciences  Phytotechny, horticulture, crop protection, phytopathology 

Code Science Field
4.01  Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences  Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 
Keywords
aegerolysin protein family, MACPF/CDC protein family, pesticide, protein, membrane, lipid.
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (24)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  15686  PhD Gregor Anderluh  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  968 
2.  24290  PhD Matej Butala  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  236 
3.  34354  PhD Urška Dragin Jerman  Oncology  Researcher  2017 - 2018  60 
4.  15873  PhD Mateja Erdani Kreft  Neurobiology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  407 
5.  20069  PhD Barbara Gerič Stare  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  274 
6.  32099  PhD Maja Grundner  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2017 - 2018  34 
7.  00385  PhD Nada Kraševec  Biotechnology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  213 
8.  00412  PhD Igor Križaj  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  725 
9.  18802  PhD Adrijana Leonardi  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  156 
10.  06994  PhD Peter Maček  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  523 
11.  25805  MSc Špela Modic  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2018  381 
12.  35371  PhD Maruša Novak  Biotechnology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  34 
13.  33683  Nina Orehar    Technical associate  2016 - 2018 
14.  39090  PhD Anastasija Panevska  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Junior researcher  2018  55 
15.  12048  PhD Marjetka Podobnik  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  316 
16.  26091  PhD Jaka Razinger  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2018  446 
17.  28393  PhD Nataša Resnik  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2018  88 
18.  15328  PhD Kristina Sepčić  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Head  2016 - 2018  728 
19.  33137  PhD Matej Skočaj  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  107 
20.  28397  PhD Polona Strajnar  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2018  89 
21.  22935  PhD Saša Širca  Plant production  Researcher  2016 - 2018  336 
22.  38473  Tomaž Švigelj    Technical associate  2016 - 2018  11 
23.  06905  PhD Tom Turk  Biochemistry and molecular biology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  619 
24.  08279  PhD Peter Veranič  Neurobiology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  359 
Organisations (5)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0104  National Institute of Chemistry  Ljubljana  5051592000  20,916 
2.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  90,600 
3.  0381  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine  Ljubljana  1627066  48,182 
4.  0401  Agricultural institute of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5055431  20,373 
5.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  66,215 
Abstract
To meet increasing food demands and to comply with stricter environmental demands, agriculture must increase food production and quality while decreasing its detrimental ecological impact. These strategies can also be directed towards efficient control of pests, by replacing the use of first-generation chemical pesticides with novel, safer, and environmentally friendly biopesticides. Bacterial and fungal proteins belonging to the aegerolysin family have been recently found to interact with ceramide phosphoethanolamine, a membrane sphingolipid that is specific to invertebrates. Moreover, the genomes of some aegerolysin-producing fungi harbour nucleotide sequences that encode proteins with a membrane-attack-complex/ perforin (MACPF) domain. When combined, aegerolysins and these MACPF-proteins can perforate artificial and biological membranes that contain the specific lipid receptor, by forming transmembrane pore complexes. Similarly, the genomes of some aegerolysin-producing bacteria include nucleotide sequences that encode larger protein partner(s) that, when combined with aegerolysins, have membrane-perforating activity. Some of these bacterial aegerolysin-based heteromeric complexes have already been reported to have selective insecticidal properties, and have been successfully introduced into plants via genetic transformation. In the proposed project, we aim to further evaluate the potential of a battery of recombinant aegerolysins from selected bacteria and fungi, alone and in combination with their MACPF-protein partners, to act as potential bio-pesticides against some of the currently most damaging insects, and other selected invertebrates. Aegerolysin interactions with membrane lipids and soluble lipid derivatives will be further investigated, and the crystal structures of these complexes will be solved, to provide the new structural information that is necessary for further protein engineering and improvements of the pesticidal properties. The data obtained will also shed light on the currently still cryptic biological roles of these widely distributed and highly expressed proteins, the aegerolysins.
Significance for science
The research approach of this project aims to provide solutions for problems that conventional pest control faces nowadays, including insecticide resistance and inadequate pest control, and environmental and human health concerns. The data will contribute to broadening efficient strategies on how to detect and control specific invertebrates that are harmful to crops, which obviously remains a significant challenge. The success of this project and its demonstration through high-level publications and patent applications is based on: (i) recent findings showing aegerolysin potential to specifically interact with invertebrate membrane lipids; (ii) cytolytic effects of aegerolysins when acting in heteromeric complexes with other protein partner(s); and (iii) documented insecticidal properties of these selected aegerolysin-based heteromeric complexes. Our long-term goal will be to use the aegerolysins and their partnering proteins for the creation of transgenic plants that express insecticidal proteins. Moreover, our study will provide novel basic knowledge on the biological role of aegerolysins. Indeed, these proteins appear in a number of taxonomically quite diverse species. However, many of them are well-known to have significant impact on humans, as being pathogenic (i.e., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Vibrio cholerae, Aspergillus fumigatus), biotechnologically relevant (A. niger) or consumed (Pleurotus spp.).
Significance for the country
The studies proposed in this project fit into the research priorities of the FP7 and H2020 in different areas (Agricultural and Forestry theme “Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research”, Environment and Climate Action, Biotechnology, Food and Healthy Diet). All of these areas focus around securing viable food production in the face of growing world food demand, with the need to increase productivity while preserving ecosystems, and to reduce pesticide residues in food. The increasing importance of biotechnology in the following few years will be achieved through industrial applications, including biopharmaceuticals, food and feed production, and biochemicals, of which the market share of the latter is estimated to increase by up to 12% to 20% of chemical production by 2015. Indeed, decreased dependence on chemical pesticides is an integral part of the European Union agenda for agriculture (1). Thus, to meet the increasing food demand and to comply with stricter environmental demands, agriculture must increase food production and quality while decreasing its detrimental ecological impact (69,70). The development of alternative control strategies for pests is urgently needed, because of the phase-out of many ‘first-generation’ pesticides. Therefore, the search for novel bioactive substances that will be useful for a new generation of genetically modified crops or to be used directly against the pest, which is the focus of this project, is very timely. The research approach of this project aims to provide solutions for problems that conventional pest control faces, including insecticide resistance and inadequate pest control as well as environmental and human health concerns.  This proposed project will address the biotechnological importance of aegerolysins and MACPF-proteins through studies of their potential use as safe and environmentally friendly pesticides. Their pesticide action will be studied on the most damaging crop pests in terms of yield loss. The discovery and subsequent patenting of potential novel bioactive compound(s) might represent an excellent basis for transfer to biotechnological (production of pest-resistant transgenic plants bearing aegerolysin/ MACPF-protein genes) or industrial (production of sprayable pesticides) applications. These long-term activities are out of the scope of the proposed project, but they might lead to a range of commercialisation options, including private-public partnerships, IP licensing, and spin-off companies. As the agricultural sector is a multibillion EUR commercial sector, the mid-term to long-term financial consequences of this project have the potential to be substantial.
Most important scientific results Interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
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