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RNA Innovation Seminar: Jeffrey Barrick, UT at Austin

Monday, September 25, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

“Turning Bugs into Features: Engineering and Evolving Insect Symbiont-Mediated RNA Interference”
Jeffrey Barrick, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences
University of Texas at Austin



In-person: BSRB, ABC seminar rooms / hybrid link

Abstract: Many insects have co-evolved associations with microbial symbionts that are more consequential than our relationship with the human microbiome. These symbionts may live within insect cells, be inherited across generations, and support host survival. My research group and our collaborators have developed genetic toolkits for engineering diverse bacterial symbionts associated with flies, aphids, bees, and other insects. Because of their important and integrated functions, engineered symbionts can be used to study insect biology, protect beneficial insects, and prevent pests from vectoring disease. Recently, we have examined how culturable “protosymbiont” strains of Serratia symbiotica colonize aphids and demonstrated that they are transmitted to offspring. We are now attempting to attenuate the pathogenicity of these strains to initiate new stable symbioses. In other work, we have shown that the honey bee gut symbiont Snodgrassella alvi can be engineered to express double-stranded RNAs that induce a targeted RNA interference response in their hosts. These engineered symbionts can be used to knock down expression of bee genes as a tool for functional genomics. We have also used double-stranded RNA expression by symbionts to prime the bee immune system against viral infection and induce a self-killing response in parasitic Varroa mites that feed on bees in order to protect pollinator health.


Monday, September 25, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm