Seminar in Entomology and Plant Pathology
March 27 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Exploring the transcriptomics of polyphagy in plant-eating insects
(Advisor: Dr. Nate Hardy
Although most plant-feeding insect are specialists and consume only one or a few groups of plants, some species are generalists that can consume many different plants. Despite their status as pest and invasive species, we still understand little about how generalist insects respond to new hosts and overcome different plant defenses at both the genetic and molecular levels. My thesis research is composed of a series of experiments analyzing gene expression data from generalist insect species. My first experiment used RNA samples from the invasive generalist insect Paratachardina pseudolobata. I found significant differential expression of over 2000 transcripts, most of which were not related to detoxification or effector activity and have not been implicated in multi-host use. For the second part of this project, I used published transcriptome resources from multiple herbivorous insect species to test if the number of identified detoxification transcripts affects a species’ host diet breadth. In my regression analysis, I found a significant positive correlation between insect detoxification transcripts and host breadth. My last plan to test if gene expression patterns identified in my research hold true in a controlled setting and are related with insect performance across hosts. For this step I used a common-garden experimental design and the citrus mealybug Planococcus citri as the test subject. I have performance data, and I am using extracted RNA samples from mealybugs to examine its relation to gene expression.