Mentor: Dr. Gregory Davis
Because of their unique life and reproductive cycle, aphids are an ideal model organism for studying epigenetics. At present, however, there is no way to study the effects of knocking out or knocking down a gene in this organism. Anti sense molecules such as iRNA have no quantifiable effect. As such, it is impossible to truly ascertain the effects of any given gene or protein on the organism. Vivo morpholinos are unique molecules that can travel between cells and can be administered to an adult organism to knock down a gene. We believe that since adult female asexuals contain offspring of many different levels of development, that the vivo morpholinos will be successful in knocking out genes in some of the offspring. In out experiment we will be attempting to inhibit the translation of the “eyeless” gene which is believed to be a Pax-6 homolog. Adult asexual female aphids will be injected with the vivo morpholinos in hope of affecting the eye development to the point that the eyes do not develop at all or are significantly reduced. Studies done with juvenile hormone (JH) demonstrate the after a certain point in development, the presence JH had no effect. We believe it is possible that only the newest of the developing offspring will be affected by the introduction of these molecules. This technological development would open the door to a number of possibilities within aphid research. For example, researchers would be able to knock out the genes that result in the production of JH, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of this hormone.