Transposable elements are mobile segments of DNA that can move from site to site within a genome and can be used for delivery of foreign DNA into the genomes of insects. Although the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster (Diptera) was, in 1982, the first organism to be transformed, leading to tremendous advancements in genetics research, the application of this technology to other insects has been slow. Recent successes however indicate that stable transformation of insects may become more routine in the foreseeable future. Transformation using transposable elements has been achieved for relatively few species, mostly within the Lepidoptera and Diptera (Table I). Other gene transfer
TABLE I Genetic Transformation of Nondrosophilid Insects systems using viruses or gene expression from transformed bacterial endosymbionts (so-called paratransgenesis) have been used for some species that are not amenable to direct transformation. The genomes of bacteria and viruses are also significantly easier to engineer than eukaryotic genomes. Bacteria and viruses have been used as vectors for both transient and stable foreign gene expression in insects. For example, the bacterial symbionts of the kissing bug, Rhodnius prolixis, were successfully engineered to reduce the quantity of Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasitic protozoan that causes Chagas disease and is carried by this vector. The bacterial endosymbionts were engineered to express an antimicrobial peptide or antibodies that specifically target the parasite. Similar methods are being developed to prevent transmission of the malaria parasite Plasmodium by its mosquito vectors.
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