This work package includes 2 projects:
Not all insects are pests. Actually many species are beneficial to humans or the environment. These include pollinators of natural and agricultural ecosystems, predators or parasites of pests, or insects that provide commodities such as silk or proteins for feed.
Our first commercial project involves the domesticated silkworm Bombyx mori, currently studied as a model organism for lepidopteran genetics and for its economic value in silk production (~200,000 tons worldwide in 2015). B. mori responds to photoperiod which is able to modify the silkworm’s developmental timing and/or silk productivity. The second project on an economically valuable insect investigates circadian rhythms in bumblebees. These insects are efficient pollinators and dedicated industries produce colonies for commercial crop pollination (including cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes). Their pollination services increase crop production and reduce labour costs. Circadian clocks are important for their foraging behaviour as well as for social behaviours that regulate their colony growth and function.
Title: Silkmoth clock
Host Institution: University of Padova
Supervisor: Dr Federica Sandrelli
Secondment: University of Haifa for 2 months for bioinformatic analysis, CREA for 3 months for silkmoth transgenesis and phenotyping, BCAS České Budějovice for two months for CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis.
Objectives: To discover the relationship between the LD cycle, the circadian clock and the immune response in the silkmoth and the optimal rearing conditions to grow silkworms that are less sensitive to infections whilst still producing good quality silk. Sensitivity to infections is regulated by both the photoperiod and the circadian clock, which modulate the immune response during the 24h day in Drosophila. We will determine whether a similar daily immune cycle is present in silkmoths when infected with pathogens by using a transcriptomic approach. We will create clock mutants using CRISPR/Cas9 and determine whether the circadian clock affects viability after infection and silk production under different photoperiods. We shall study the expression patterns of clock genes and any cycling induced immune system transcription factors to see whether they colocalise in silkmoth tissues.
Title: Bumblebee clock
Host Institution: University of Jerusalem
Supervisor: Prof Guy Bloch
Secondment: BCAS České Budějovice for two months for CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis, Wuerzburg University for two months for neuroanatomy and clock gene expression and Biobee for 2 months to learn to maintain bee colonies, controlled mating, response to pesticides.
Objectives: To determine how circadian clock genes regulate complex behaviours in the bumblebee. The circadian clock of bees influences complex behaviours such as time-compensated sun-compass navigation, time sensing, social synchronization, division of labour, and response to agrochemicals that are crucial for their social organization and foraging. However a genetic approach has not been attempted in order to definitively link the clock to these phenotypes. Using a molecular and mutagenesis approach we shall examine the expression patterns of clock genes in the bee brain both temporally and spatially under different environmental conditions and generate clock mutants to determine their effects on these complex behaviours.