The Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS) focuses on understanding the biological phenomena of agriculturally important plants, insects, microbes and animals to create innovative technologies, and eventually contribute to the solution of global issues such as food shortage due to rapid population growth and environmental problems due to climate change. NIAS is doing research and development to create new industries and new demands in the field of agricultural and medicinal industries by applying genetic engineering technologies to plants, insects and animals. In plants, for example, we are developing new rice varieties resistant to major diseases including blast. Moreover, we will include non-clinical and clinical research trials of rice-based edible vaccines for curing cedar pollinosis. In insects, we are developing medicinal materials from silk protein and medicines for humans and animals using transgenic silkworm. Furthermore, we are developing transgenic pigs to produce immune-deficit pigs and animal models for human diseases.
The Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS) has discovered that certain proteins (MLX56 family proteins) contained in mulberry latex inhibit pest growth with a completely new mechanism that has never been reported. This family of proteins were found to cause digestive disfunction by abnormally thickening the thin peritrophic membrane in the digestive tract of larvae of moths. Moreover, it inhibits the growth of larvae remarkably even if it is added to the diet at an extremely low concentration of 0.01-0.04%. Read more.
A research collaboration of the Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, NARO (NIAS), Chiba University and University of the Ryukus has shown that the male population of the insect green lacewing (Mallada desjardinsi) was extremely low due to high frequency of infection by the male-killing bacteria Spiroplasma. Subsequent study after five years revealed that the green lacewing population in the field has recovered due to the rapid evolution of the genetic resistance against the male-killing bacteria. This research result is a direct evidence of evolutionary arms race that arises between the sex-manipulating bacteria and the host insect.Read more.
The research group of Dr. Takahiro Kikawada and Dr. Richard Cornette of the Molecular Biomimetics Research Unit, Division of Biotechnology, in collaboration with the research group of Dr. Oleg Gusev from the RIKEN Innovation Center have discovered that a heat shock transcription factor gene (Hsf1) can control extreme desiccation tolerance in the sleeping chironomid (Polypedilum vanderplanki ), a mosquito-like insect found in semi-arid areas of Africa and known for its desiccation tolerance (anhydrobiosis). Read more.
NARO has developed a genetically modified silkworm that can easily bind functional components into silk proteins using the genetic code expansion strategy. Silkworm was engineered to incorporate unnatural amino acids with chemical handles into silk proteins to bind desired functional components such as pigments and drugs which can conveniently and flexibly enhance the properties of silk. The fundamental technology was first developed in 2014, and this time, NARO in collaboration with the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies has successfully increased the efficiency of incorporating chemical handles into silk proteins up to 30-fold, paving the way for practical production.Read more.