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New Possible Insecticide Found in Bacteria

December 16th, 2016

We find a great deal of our pharmaceutical ingredients right in our natural environment. Scientists recently discovered a new class of peptides called rhabdopeptide/xenortide peptides (RXPs) produced by the bacteria Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus that are able to kill insect larvae. Out in nature this bacteria works symbiotically with its nematode host to survive, which involves killing the insect larvae they are delivered to by the nematode quickly and efficiently.

What makes these new peptides so unique and a very exciting find is that the bacteria that produces them does so on a massive scale. One strain of bacteria is capable of producing 40 different derivatives of RXPs. The reason for the rather high rate of diversity with RXPs produced (instead of just one compound) is that the bacteria has no control over which insect larvae their nematode host delivers them to. Since they have to kill said insect larvae, they need to be able to kill any kind of insect quickly, which could involve sending the mixture of substances to numerous different target sites in their cells at the exact same time. The more RXPs they have to bombard the insect, the better chance they have of killing it. It’s kind of similar to shooting a shotgun. With so many RXPs sent out, at least one is bound to hit the target.

Scientists are now working on figuring out how to recreate these insect killers in a lab and possibly develop a new insecticide.

What kind of effect could an insecticide created from these RXPs have on our agriculture, economy, etc.? Do you think this would be a superior pesticide compared to what is available currently?

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