OSR-1 Nucleic Acids and Proteins (22064)

Investigators at Northwestern University have identified several novel genes that effect dehydration resistance in nematodes: when expression of these genes is modulated, parasitic and beneficial nematodes have altered sensitivity to dry, high salinity environments. In particular, knocking out these genes in beneficial nematodes will enhance their survival, while down-regulation of these genes in parasitic nematodes will decrease their ability to withstand dehydration. Enhancing the survival of beneficial nematodes and decreasing the survival of parasitic nematodes will enhance agricultural production and has enormous implications for improving human and veterinary health.

BACKGROUND: Nematodes can survive in a dormant state in adverse environment conditions such as high salinity and drought, but can reemerge upon encountering an improved environment (e.g. moister climate and lower salinity). This process is called anhydrobiosis or/and osmobiosis. Parasitic nematodes undergo anhydrobiosis, while beneficial nematodes do not. Parasitic nematodes infect over half of the world’s human population and reduce agricultural productivity by more than $100 billion dollars annually. Infective parasitic nematodes (such as the human pathogenic nematodes Strongyloides stercoralis, Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and others) and plant parasitic nematodes (such as Meloidogyne spp. and Globodera spp.) are resistant to, and can survive in, the adverse environmental conditions described above. Beneficial nematodes, like Steinernematid spp. and Heterorhabditis spp., are a promising alternative to the chemical control of insect pests, yet are sensitive to water-stress conditions. Several genes have been identified which can influence dehydration stress tolerance in the genetic model, the nematode C. elegans. Expression levels of the desiccation resistant genes identified to date have been modulated in nematodes using gene targeting techniques such as RNA interference. Altering the expression of dehydration resistance genes in parasitic and beneficial nematodes (as described above) is an environmentally friendly method for eliminating parasitic nematodes and enhancing the life-span of beneficial nematodes.

APPLICATION: The genes of this invention are the first genes that have been shown to modulate dehydration stress in nematodes and in any metazoan species. These genes serve as a mechanism to enhance the survival of beneficial nematodes that are unable to survive in harsh, dry conditions and can decrease the survival of parasitic nematodes that are easily able to withstand desiccation and saline stress, to improve human and animal health and agriculture productivity.

Issued Patent 7,094,945

Inventor(s): Aaron Solomon, Richard Morimoto, and Greg Beitel

Type of Offer: Licensing

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