Scientists genetically modified tobacco mosaic virus so that it produces a natural, environmentally friendly insecticide, turning the pathogen into a microscopic chemical factory, said Dov Borovsky, an entomologist with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The modified virus is almost completely harmless to plants and simply produces the insecticide.Plants inoculated with the virus quickly accumulate enough of the insecticide to kill insect pests that consume their leaves, said Borovsky, who works at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach and is affiliated with UF's Genetics Institute.
"This is the first time we know of that anybody put on tobacco mosaic virus something that actually can act as an insecticide and protect the plant," said Borovsky
, lead author of the paper.Tobacco mosaic virus is commonly used in genetic research because genes can be added to it easily.
The chemical, known as trypsin -modulating oostatic factor, or TMOF, stops insects from producing a crucial digestive enzyme called trypsin, he
holds 14 patents on TMOF technologies, some of which have been licensed to private companies, Borovsky
said.He discovered TMOF, a hormone produced by female mosquitoes' ovaries, years ago and has researched the chemical ever since.
Scientists plan to investigate further practical applications of TMOF, he
"TMOF works against the diaprepes citrus root weevil, it causes a lot of problems here in Florida," Borovsky
UF researchers have produced genetically modified alfalfa plant that generates TMOF, he