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Development of dsRNA delivery platforms for insect control in agriculture

Grant number: 23/05204-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2023
Effective date (End): July 31, 2027
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Biochemistry
Principal Investigator:Marcelo Bispo de Jesus
Grantee:André Lopes Ferreira
Host Institution: Instituto de Biologia (IB). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil

Abstract

In recent years, with increasing population growth and food consumption, the use of agrochemicals for pest control has become indispensable since losses caused by pest account for approximately 20% to 40% of agricultural production. To reduce this percentage, manufacturers began to use and rely on synthetic chemical products. However, their indiscriminate and irresponsible use can harm human health, cause water and soil pollution, and have a broad spectrum of effects, often affecting numerous non-target species. Hence, developing new approaches to efficient pest control is crucial to overcome these problems. An alternative would be RNAi technology, which represents a sustainable alternative to control agricultural pests and diseases with high target specificity and versatility. However, one of the major bottlenecks in using RNAi technology in agriculture is the development of formulations that confer stability, promote efficient RNA delivery into target organism. Thus, this project aims to develop double-stranded RNA nanocarriers from nanoparticles of layered double hydroxides (LDHs), a highly attractive class of inorganic nanomaterials with excellent anion exchange capacity, high stability, low cytotoxicity, and high biocompatibility. Therefore, we will develop different compositions of LDHs (1) by varying the metal ions used during synthesis to find more suitable physicochemical properties. The different formulations will be evaluated and selected based on their ability to complex with RNA molecules (2), transport the molecules to the cells of the model organisms (Tuta absoluta), induce suppression of specific gene silencing (3), minimize toxicity (4), grant stability to the RNA molecules (5), internalize the molecules in the plant cell (HIGS, Host-Induced Gene Silencing) (6), maximize selectivity for the target organism (7) and maximize in vivo performance (8). This strategy aims to select the formulations with the best performance in these criteria, giving great potential for use in RNAi technology to control insect pests and promote sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture.

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