Biologists engineered insect-bacterial mutualism in ‘bucket list’ achievement

Annonymous,  @THEU,  2022.

A new paper in Current Biology authored by Crystal Su and other collaborators in the School of Biological Sciences describes the development of a novel, synthetic insect-bacterial symbiosis that is sustained through many insect generations by transovarial bacterial transmission. The symbiotic bacteria express a red fluorescent protein that is visible through the insect cuticle, facilitating characterization of the mechanics of infection and transmission in insect tissues and cells. In addition, Su et. al.engineered the bacteria to modify their ability to synthesize aromatic amino acids, which are used by the insect host to fuel cuticle strengthening. Correspondingly, insects maintaining bacteria that overproduce these nutrients exhibited stronger cuticles, signifying mutualistic function. The establishment of this synthetic symbiosis will facilitate detailed molecular genetic analysis of symbiotic interactions and presents a foundation for the use of genetically modified symbionts in the engineering of insects that transmit diseases of medical and agricultural importance. The paper is titled “Rational engineering of a synthetic insect-bacterial mutualism.”

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