Junior Group Leader
Phone: +49 641 99-37747
|since 2017||Junior group Leader, Fraunhofer IME Bioresources Project Group, Giessen, Germany|
|07/2015-01/2017||Postdoc, Fraunhofer IME Bioresources Project Group, Giessen, Germany.|
|06/2014–06/2015||Postdoc, Institute for phytopathology and applied zoology, University of Giessen, Germany.|
|12/2012–06/2014||Postdoc, Institute for Adriatic Crops, Croatia|
|10/2010–03/2012||Member of Management Committee, COST FA0701|
|02/2009–06/2010||Doctoral student, Volcani center (Department of Entomology), Israel|
|06/2008–12/2012||Doctoral student, University of Zagreb, Croatia|
|03/2008–12/2012||Doctoral student, research assistant, Institute for Adriatic Crops, Croatia|
|01/2008||Diploma in biology and chemistry, University of Split, Croatia|
Aphids (Hemiptera, Sternorrhyncha, Aphidoidea) are notorious agricultural pests that cause damage to numerous plants by feeding on the phloem sap and vectoring phytoviruses. They are also biological models for the investigation of symbiosis, insect–plant interactions and virus transmission.
Chemical insecticides are still important control strategy against aphids. However, their frequent application leads to developed resistance in aphids, contamination of the environment and health risk for humans.
In this group we use following approaches to find alternative strategies for the aphid control:
1) Effect of antimicrobial peptides on bacterial symbionts of aphids
Aphids are hosts for multiple bacterial symbionts. Primary symbiont, Buchnera aphidicola supplements their unbalanced diet with essential amino acids. Other bacterial symbionts may protect them from biological threats, or provide them with better adaptation to the environment. Disrupting and manipulating symbionts have significant impact on reduction of growth, development and reproduction. The aim of this approach is to induce such an effect by feeding with antimicrobial peptides.
2) RNA interference (RNAi) based aphid control
RNAi refers to dsRNA-mediated gene silencing and it has been successfully performed in several insect orders. Fully known genomic status of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) (e.g sequenced genome, full length cDNAs) provides valuable information for studying gene functions through RNAi. Gene silencing in the pea aphid can lead to higher mortality, down-regulation and malfunction of the targeted gene. The aim here is to find gene targets which might be used for producing of insect-resistant crops.
Reduced aphid fitness achieved with described strategies may lead to lower infestation of crops, potentially below an economically relevant infestation level. This may result in reduced application of chemical insecticides.
Other research interests
• insect-symbiont interactions
• diversity and localization of bacterial symbionts in insect models
• transmission of bacterial symbionts
• investigating the potential functions of bacterial symbionts
Dr. Marisa Skaljac, group leader
Phillipp Kirfel, PhD student
Jens Grotmann, technical asisstent
Olga Lang, technical asisstent
Maximillian Seip, technical asisstent
Svenja Thöneböhn, student helper (HiWi)