August 2019

Targeted Biopesticides: BAPC-Delivered dsRNA Yields Exciting Possibilities

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Biopesticides are pesticides derived from naturally occurring materials. The three primary types include microbial, plant-incorporated-protectants and biochemical. While these classifications can include a wide range of different technologies, the biochemical industry has been generating the most excitement with many recent breakthroughs in pest management. One of the more promising technologies driving this advancement are products that cause a naturally occurring process called RNA interference (RNAi).

RNAi products work by causing cells to suppress the activity of certain genes. This targeted technology can protect crops from specific insects, weeds and diseases, while having no negative effects on the surrounding environment. An RNAi pesticide could prevent an insect from fully developing or reproducing and can even cause rapid death among a pest population. At the same time, beneficial insects would be completely unaffected and could continue to thrive. This offers a huge advantage over the use of traditional synthetic pesticides, which usually kill indiscriminately.

While many researchers have successfully tested RNAi biopesticides in the lab through microinjections, the process is extremely difficult and time consuming. Branched amphipathic peptide capsules (BAPC) can have RNA attached to them and be fed directly to insects. This can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to conduct research. Scientists at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas have been using BAPC in studies with pea aphids. By attaching double-stranded RNA to the BAPC, they successfully shut down proteins in the insect, resulting in a 100 percent kill rate. This ongoing work is dramatically sped up by using BAPC over traditional application methods.

RNAi products also face difficulties when being tested in the field. While these products can be applied directly to crops, they quickly break down in the environment, severely limiting their effectiveness. Once RNAi is ingested, it must also survive the insect’s gut in order to yield successful results. BAPC provide an additional level of protection for RNAi biopesticides, allowing them to remain on the surface of plants longer, be absorbed directly into the plants and survive the harsh conditions of the insect digestive system. The stability of BAPC ensure that their payload remain fully intact until it’s consumed by the target pest. Because BAPC are completely biodegradable, they create no negative environmental effects by building up over time.