Institute for Integrative Genome Biology

Developing Novel and Safe Insecticides

An international team of scientists, led in the U.S. by IIGB entomologist Alexander Raikhel, discovered potent compounds in plants that counteract the action of a hormone in insects that plays key roles in insect development, reproduction and other physiological functions.  This discovery holds promise for the development of effective pest-control agents that pose no health risk to humans and are environmentally safe.

“Insect-specific growth regulators” are compounds that regulate the growth of insects. One hormone in insects, called juvenile hormone, is a particularly attractive target for insect growth regulators because this hormone exists only in insects. These compounds, called juvenile hormone antagonists (JHANs), make up plants’ innate resistance mechanism against insect herbivores.

“Our experiments showed that these five JHANs are effective against yellow fever mosquitoes,” Raikhel said. “Our Korean collaborators, led by Sang Woon Shin at Seoul National University, are testing the effect of these five molecules on other agricultural pests. These newly discovered natural molecules could lead to the development of a new class of safe and effective pesticides to control mosquitoes and, we expect, other agricultural pests.”

Study results appear online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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