Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deadly scorpion provides safe pesticide

Date:
January 19, 2010
Source:
Tel Aviv University
Summary:
Scientists have isolated the genetic sequences for important neurotoxins in the scorpion venom and developed methods to produce and manipulate these toxins to restrict their toxicity to certain insects or mammals.

Scorpions deliver a powerful, paralyzing venom -- a complex cocktail of poisonous peptides -- that immobilize animal prey on the spot.
Credit: Image courtesy of American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Scorpions deliver a powerful, paralyzing venom -- a complex cocktail of poisonous peptides -- that immobilize animal prey on the spot. Some of the toxins in this cocktail damage only insects, which is why a Tel Aviv University researcher is harnessing them to create a safe and ecologically sound pesticide.

Related Articles


Prof. Michael Gurevitz of Tel Aviv University's Department of Plant Sciences has isolated the genetic sequences for important neurotoxins in the scorpion venom. He's also developed methods to produce and manipulate toxins to restrict their toxicity in certain insects or mammals.

"Two decades ago I realized that scorpion venom is a goldmine for possible insecticidal and therapeutic agents. This raised the question of how to use them as ecologically-safe agents against insects in a farmer's fields, or in medicinal disorders," he says.

In his study of the toxins and the evolution of their genes he recently published a paper in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution that demonstrates how computational analyses at the gene sequence level leads to better understanding of how to manipulate toxin activity.

A venom factory in the lab

Rather than isolating the venom constituents of the Israeli yellow scorpion, known to be among the world's most poisonous scorpions, Prof. Gurevitz developed genetic methods for producing and manipulating the desired toxins in bacteria. He then investigated how they act against insects and mammals, paving the way for potential use in the agriculture industry.

He went in this direction because attempts to insert a certain neurotoxin gene into a plant genome hoping for the plant to produce the toxin and kill infesting insects has failed. As a peptide, the toxin was metabolized in the insect guts, which evidently seems to require that it first be engineered to be able to penetrate into the insect blood stream to have its impact on the nervous system.

Prof. Gurevitz says that some neurotoxins in the scorpion are highly active against some insects -- leaf-eating moths, locusts, flies and beetles -- but have no effect on beneficial insects like honeybees or on mammals like humans. He continues to pursue an effective mode of delivery for what could be a new insecticide.

Prof. Gurevitz is considered one of the world's pioneers in this field, having published numerous papers on this subject. He spent six years as a research fellow at Washington University in St. Louis and Michigan State University, beginning his scorpion studies while an M.Sc. student in Jerusalem 35 years ago. Since then, he's developed methods of toxin gene cloning, production and modification in his lab, paving the way for an entirely new molecular field based on the venom of the deadly insect.

A "Trojan crop" to hide a deadly poison

Since scorpion toxins must be modified to be able to penetrate the blood stream of an infesting insect, it is important to study the toxins and the way they interact with the insect nervous system. Only then would it be possible to modify them in such a way as to reach their target tissues in insects, he says. This is the direction he is working on now.

The agriculture industry already uses mostly pyrethroids, which also penetrate into insects and attack their nervous systems, leading to paralysis and death. Their main drawback, however, is the lack of specificity and the danger these compounds pose to the environment, livestock and humans.

"Why not harness potent natural compounds that venomous animals developed during millions of years of evolution?" asks Prof. Gurevitz. "I am developing the science so we can learn how to use them, and to learn how to produce agents to mimic their effect yet maintain specificity to certain kinds of insects."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Tel Aviv University. "Deadly scorpion provides safe pesticide." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100111122649.htm>.
Tel Aviv University. (2010, January 19). Deadly scorpion provides safe pesticide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100111122649.htm
Tel Aviv University. "Deadly scorpion provides safe pesticide." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100111122649.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

AFP (Nov. 25, 2014) Phnom Penh's only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins