Thursday, February 17, 2005

129: Using evolved toxins as pesticides

Spider Venom Could Yield Eco-Friendly Insecticides | Science Blog:

One approach is to create chemical insecticides that mimic the action of spider toxins. Many insects have developed immunity to DDT and other chemical controls because most insecticides are neurotoxins that act against only a small number of nervous system targets. King's spider-venom cocktails could be designed to thwart the resistance of specific insect pests by locking on to novel molecular targets in the insect nervous system. Because the insects have never encountered chemicals that behave like spider toxins, they will most likely lack resistance to bioinsecticides derived from funnel-web venom.
Why do we think spider venom would work better? Because venoms that were easy to adapt to were selected against, and resistance to them spread through insect populations. So evolutionary science predicts that naturally occurring venoms should target more highly conserved portions of the nervous system, parts that can't adapt as easily.

Reducing the current loss of 25% of crops to insects: just another day for evolutionary biology.