Scientists Alter Insects Using Special Genetic Element
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Tara Weaver-Missick, (301) 504-1619, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 8, 1999
Agricultural Research Service scientists are using a special genetic element
from moths that "jump" between chromosomes to genetically change insects.
This special element could enable scientists to create sterile insects for
release into the wild to disrupt mating of pest populations. It also could
help the scientists mark insect populations for better tracking and
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief research agency.
Malcolm Fraser, Jr., an associate professor with the University of Notre
Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., discovered the genetic element, called piggyBac,
ARS physiologist Paul D. Shirk, in collaboration with researcher O. P.
Perera of the University of Florida, is testing piggyBac to see if it will
work in pests that invade stored products. A primary target is the
Indianmeal moth (Plodia interpunctella), the number one stored product pest.
Shirk works at ARS' Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary
Entomology (CMAVE) in Gainesville, Fla.
Geneticist Alfred M. Handler, also with CMAVE, has successfully demonstrated
piggyBac's effectiveness in genetically changing fruit flies by using it to
change their eye color. This shows that piggyBac can carry different genes
into flies and is useful for changing or creating genetic differences in
these insects. Fruit flies cause major damage to citrus and other crops
An in-depth article on this research appears in the April issue of
Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contacts: Paul D. Shirk and Alfred M. Handler, ARS Center for
Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Fla., phone
(352) 374-5720 [Shirk], (352) 374-5793 [Handler]; fax (352) 374-5794;
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