Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Endeavour fellowship boosts entomology bioprotection research

16 June 2015

Endeavour Research Fellow Dr Jakob Baranek, Poland, is working with Professor Gavin Ash looking at Metarhizium anisopliae isolates that will be screened for genes encoding virulence factors during pathogenesis of the fungus in insects. Photo: Toni Nugent.Dr Jakub Baranek is working with Professor Gavin Ash and his team at CSU, Wagga for the coming five months as part of his 2015 Endeavour Research Fellowship.

Dr Baranek is from the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Biology at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland.

While at CSU he is working on a project looking at a set of Metarhizium anisopliae isolates that will be screened to search for genes encoding virulence factors active during pathogenesis of the fungus in insects.

Initially, M. anisopliae strains from the CSU collection were isolated from different habitats and locations in Australia. Methods used to isolate the fungi include 'mealworm bait' and sample dilution methods.

A set of primers needed for PCR screening reactions will be designed on genes encoding putative effector proteins or degradative enzymes deduced from whole genome sequence analysis of M. anisopliae BRIP 53293 EFD69 SSC31 (Ma69) from previous work (Pattemore et al, 2014). A second set of primers will be designed on genes that are estimated to be extensively up-regulated during insect pathogenesis in Tenebrio molitor (mealworm) caused by the fungus (unpublished data).

Based on the results of screening tests, a number of effector genes will be selected and deleted from M. anisopliae genome. The gene knockout will be performed using sequence specific CRISPR/Cas9 system. The M. anisopliae negative mutants (lacking single effector genes or genes deleted in combinations) will be created.

The role of the selected genes in pathogenesis will be determined by bioassays. Insecticidal activity of M. anisopliae wild strain and the negative mutants will be determined towards T. molitor imago, and statistical differences will be computed.

Although basic in nature, this research will have implications for the selection of virulent strains of Metarhizium for the management of a range of insect pests in Australia, and will contribute to our knowledge of the virulence of these fungi.

Contact: Dr Jakob Baranek, E: jbaranek@csu.edu.au

Photo: Endeavour Research Fellow Dr Jakob Baranek, Poland, is working with Professor Gavin Ash looking at Metarhizium anisopliae isolates that will be screened for genes encoding virulence factors during pathogenesis of the fungus in insects.

Photo acknowledgement: Toni Nugent