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Federal grant funds OU-COM research on non-toxic pest control

Frank Horodyski, Ph.D., wins $420,000 National Science Foundation grant

Frank Horodyski, Ph.D., professor of biomedical sciences, received a three-year $420,000 award from the National Science Foundation for his research proposal “Molecular and functional characterization of the allatotropin receptor.”

With his research, Horodyski hopes to better understand the development and reproduction of common agricultural insect pests. The work ultimately could lead to the development of safe
and novel mechanisms to control insects, he said.

Horodyski’s study focuses on allatotropin, a neuropeptide (small protein made in neurons) in the tobacco hornworm, a common moth caterpillar. He will study how allatotropin binds to and interacts with cells, and how it regulates functions of the caterpillar’s digestive tract, or midgut tissue. 

Among other things, allatotropin stimulates production of juvenile hormone (JH) in the adult moth. JH is an insect hormone that prevents metamorphosis in larvae and stimulates egg maturation in adults.

The goal of the research, Horodyski said, is to prevent the development and/or reproduction of harmful insects, without resorting to toxic compounds that can harm the environment, as well as beneficial insects.

The grant will allow Horodyski to hire a postdoctoral fellow and part-time lab technician. In addition, he will be collaborating with researchers from Georgia, North Carolina, Great Britain and Ohio University Biological Sciences Professor Mary Chamberlin, Ph.D.

The postdoctoral fellow and undergraduate researchers, who will be recruited after research begins, will benefit from broad-based, integrated training using molecular, cell biological and physiological methods—which is extremely valuable training considering the multidisciplinary nature of scientific research, Horodyski said.

 
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Last updated: 01/28/2016