DNA methylation in aphids

DNA methylation and the evolution of pesticide-resistance genes in aphids

Project Summary.

Led by: Swarbreck Group

Start date: July 2018

End date: Dec 2021

Duration: 30 months

Grants: UKRI / BBSRC

Value: £962,887

The green peach aphid (GPA) Myzus persicae is unusual among plant pests in that it can colonize over 400 different plant species and transmit more than 100 different plant viruses. Moreover, GPA has evolved resistance to 71 different pesticides. The rapid evolution of pesticide resistance, coupled with changes in the regulatory landscape on pesticide usage, has resulted in a lack of control methods for this insect.

Research so far has focused on the identification of genes that are involved in stable pesticide resistance of aphids. However, little is known about how stable resistance evolves and what mechanisms underlie GPA’s extraordinary ability to adjust to diverse environments, including exposure to exogenous chemicals from diverse plant species and pesticides. In this project, we will focus on epigenetic mechanisms, specifically the role of de novo DNA methylation in pesticide resistance.

Impact statement.

In this project we will identify genes and genetic variants that enable the green peach aphid (GPA) to rapidly evolve resistance to pesticides and adapt to new host plants. More specifically, we will have revealed how DNA methylation regulates genes responsible for GPA colonization of diverse plant species and how these relate to those involved in pesticide resistance.

We will also compare gene networks affected by adaptive DNA methylation to a closely related aphid with limited host range. Taken together these data will help us understand how the development of insecticide resistance initiates and evolves, and, in turn, is expected to lead to new control strategies for GPA and related insect pests.

People working on the project.