This GMBI concentration focuses on arthropod development at the genetic and molecular level as it contributes to our understanding of the development of pesticide resistance, the evolution of host-parasite interactions and genetically engineered insect strains with a goal of developing novel and non-chemical methods to manage arthropod pests and diseases they vector to humans and crops.
Applied and basic evolutionary biology of insects. Genomic basis of pest adaptation to control efforts that use conventional pesticides or genetically engineered crops. Using population genetic modeling and experiments to make predictions about the utility of novel gene-drive strategies for suppressing or altering the characteristics of pest populations.
As a member of the Genetic Pest Management research group, the Lorenzen lab seeks to broaden research into major agricultural pests by expanding available genetic tools, including genome and transcriptome sequencing, transgenics, and CRISPR/Cas9-based genome editing. Although my research has expanded to include multiple insect species, my primary goal is to understand the selfish genetic element, Medea, which occurs naturally in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, so that it might be deployed in controlling other pests.
My research program generates Frankliniella occidentalis (western flower thrips) transcriptome sequence resources that enable functional analysis of tospovirus-thrips interactions, and I lead the coordination of the i5k F. occidentalis genome annotation consortium to deliver sequence resources to community members with particular interests in insect evolution, development, and vector-virus interactions.
The recently sequenced genomes of the German cockroach and bed bug serve as gateways for several projects. Cockroaches are major etiological agents of allergic disease and asthma. We are elucidating the sources of cockroach allergens, their expression patterns, and functions in the behavior and physiology of the German cockroach. Population genetic studies aim to understand the global genetic structure and differentiation of cockroaches and bed bug populations, sources of local infestations, and the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these insects in human-built structures. Local and global evolutionary patterns of insecticide resistance are examined with toxicology assays, and transcriptome and target-site SNP analyses. Annotation and functional analyses of chemosensory genes in the German cockroach are facilitating behavioral, neural, genetic, and evolutionary studies of the bases of adaptive sugar-aversions that confer resistance to baits.
Our research focuses on developing insect strains for genetic control programs. Underpinning our program are more basic studies on genes that determine sex and stage and tissue-specific gene promoters. To facilitate this research we have assembled and annotated whole genome sequences for the species of interest (e.g. the New World screwworm). F-+or functional analyses we routinely use CRISPR gene editing and germ-line transformation.
Our research explores plant-virus-vector interactions at the molecular level with the goal of developing a better understanding of the complex sequence of events leading to virus acquisition and transmission by vectors. The virus life cycle is inextricably linked to fundamental host processes. Our research goals are to identify insect genes that are important for virus infection of the arthropod vectors using a functional genomics-based approach, develop a better understanding of virus entry and the role of viral glycoproteins in this process, and develop virus and insect resistant plants.
Our research in molecular biosystematics is focused on inferring phylogenetic relationships and testing hypotheses about the evolution and diversification of insects.