A delivery system for field application of paratransgenic control
As an alternative to chemical pesticides, paratransgenesis relies on transformation of symbiotic bacteria of an arthropod vector to deliver molecules that disrupt pathogen transmission. For over a decade paratransgenesis has remained a laboratory-based endeavor owing to regulatory concerns regarding introduction of transformed microorganisms into the environment. To facilitate field application of paratransgenic strategies, risk mitigation approaches that address environmental contamination and gene spread must be developed. Using biopolymer manipulation, we introduce a novel microencapsulation platform for containment and targeted delivery of engineered bacteria to the gut of a disease-transmitting arthropod. We demonstrate the first proof of principle of targeted delivery of EPA-approved Pantoea agglomerans E325 in a paratransgenic system to control spread of Pierce's Disease by glassy-winged sharpshooters, (Homalodisca vitripennis) under simulated field conditions. Engineered microcapsules may address regulatory concerns regarding containment of recombinant bacteria and environmental spread of foreign genetic material and may represent an important step in translating paratransgenic science beyond the lab and into the field. We present, for the first time, a microencapsulation strategy to deliver recombinant bacteria to an insect and demonstrate targeted release of bacteria into the physiologically relevant region of the insect gut. This is a first step toward addressing concerns related to field application of recombinant bacteria. Engineered microparticles may decrease environmental contamination, horizontal gene transfer and competition with native species by acting as a barrier between recombinant bacteria and the environment.