Protein complexes from the fungal genus Pleurotus, new bio‐ pesticides for controlling Colorado potato beetle and western corn rootworm




General Data

Member of UL: Veterinary faculty 

Name of the leading partner: UL Biotechnical Faculty

Status: partner

Project code/ Projet No.: J4-1772

Project Title: Protein  complexes  from  the  fungal  genus  Pleurotus,  new  bio‐ pesticides for controlling Colorado potato beetle and western corn rootworm

Project period: 1.7.2019 - 30.6.2022

Yearly sum of FTE: 0,1

Leader: Prof. Robert Frangež

Scientific field: Biotechnology

Partners: Biotehnical faculty-University of Ljubljana, National Institute of Biology, Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, Institute Jožef Stefan, Veterinary faculty- University of Ljubljana


Project description

Currently,  modern  intensive  agriculture  is  faced  with  serious  problems  due  to  the  constant evolution  of  pesticide  resistance,  residues  of  chemical  pesticides  in  food  and  feed,  environmental concerns, human health issues, and the rising human population. Proteins belonging to the aegerolysin family have been identified in several eukaryotic and bacterial taxa, and those from the fungal genus Pleurotus (oyster mushrooms) have recently gained significant  interest.  The  common  prominent  feature  of  Pleurotus‐deriving  aegerolysins  is their  interaction  with  specific  membrane  lipids. Recently,  the  aegerolysins  ostreolysin  A6  (OlyA6;  from  P.  ostreatus),  pleurotolysin  A2  and  erylysin  A  (PlyA2,  EryA, respectively;  both  from  P.  eryngii)  were  shown  to  bind  strongly  to lipid membranes containing  ceramide  phosphoethanolamine  (CPE),  which  is  the  major sphingolipid in invertebrate cell membranes, but is not present in other taxa. Aegerolysins OlyA6, PlyA2 and  EryA,  in  concert  with  their  protein  partner  PlyB,  selectively kill larvae and adults of two coleopteran pests that belong to the family Chrysomelidae, the western corn rootworm and the Colorado potato beetle. In concert with the fact that OlyA6/PlyB, PlyA2/PlyB and EryA/PlyB protein complexes targeti an insect‐specific membrane lipid receptor, these toxicity data strongly suggest the use of these complexes for the development of next-generation of biopesticides. Importantly, due to their interactions with their specific insect membrane lipid receptor, CPE, and not with pest proteins that can be prone to mutation, the chances that these larvae can evolve resistance to these aegerolysin‐based protein complexes should be significantly lower. The genetically modified potatoes, producing CPE‐binding aegerolysin/PlyB complexes that are selectively toxic to Colorado potato beetle larvae, can be used to develop a novel generation of biopesticides for the control of this pest. Finally, we will evaluate the safety of EryA/PlyB insecticidal complexes, which do not interact with the mammalian-associated lipids (sphingomyelin/cholesterol), by testing their potential toxicity in rodent model of mammalian species.