New tools and applications for genetically engineered insect symbionts




Elston, Katherine Marie

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Insects play a broad range of roles in natural ecosystems. They pollinate plants, recycle resources, and spread diseases. One integral component of the biology of many of these insects is the symbiotic bacteria that live inside of them. The relationships between symbionts and their insect hosts are well-studied in model systems like aphids, but despite this work, the ability to study genetic components of these relationships has been lacking. A major factor in this limitation is the deficit of tools that are available for genetically manipulating both non-model bacteria and insect species. In this work, I examine these limitations, along with the possibilities for the study of insect biology and control of insect pests that may arise if we can overcome them (Chapter 1). I develop methods to engineer recently isolated symbionts of aphids (Chapter 2), and fruit flies (Chapter 3). I then adapt these engineered aphid symbionts to try to alter aphid gene expression through symbiont-mediated RNAi (Chapter 4). I conclude with a summary of our results and the implications this work may have for the future of insect symbiont engineering (Chapter 5)



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