Genomics for Optimal Aphid Biocontrol

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Institute of Integrative Biology

Abstract

Agriculture today is facing significant challenges to achieve security of food production alongside enhanced agricultural sustainability and ecosystem health. Novel methods of pest control are needed to respond to increasing pressure for food to be produced with fewer pesticides. The damage inflicted on crops by sap-feeding aphids could be reduced by enhancing the success of their natural enemies. This project aims to enhance aphid biocontrol through improved understanding of the factors regulating parasitism success during aphid-parasitoid interactions.
Our recent research has detected genetic variation in the susceptibility of the potato aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae, to the parasitoid wasp, Aphidius ervi, associated with innate aphid resistance to parasitism, although the underlying mechanisms are unknown. M. euphorbiae is a polyphagous pest colonising a range of crops, including potato and soft fruit. The presence of 'resistant' aphid genotypes has the potential to compromise aphid biocontrol on these crops.
This four-year project will explore the molecular processes that occur when potato aphids are attacked by parasitoid wasps, to establish the genetic basis of the resistant aphid phenotype. The project objectives are:
1. Establish the frequency of resistant genotypes in potato aphid populations;
2. Generate a draft genome for Macrosiphum euphorbiae by whole shotgun genome sequencing using the Illumina and PACBIO sequencing platforms;
3. Establish the genetic basis of resistance by generating and phenotyping a first generation backcross mapping population;
4. Elucidate the transcriptional responses of resistant and susceptible lines of M. euphorbiae to parasitoid attack using Directional RNAseq;
5. Assess the potential for exploiting genetic variation in parasitoid virulence to overcome aphid resistance by identifying virulence markers for use in parasitoid breeding programmes.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M016528/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019
1651529 Studentship BB/M016528/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Mark Whitehead