Chunju An

Department of Entomology, China Agricultural University

Summary of my work

Insects primarily rely on their innate immunity to defend against invading pathogens and parasites. Understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in insect innate immune reaction is important for protecting beneficial insects and controlling pests. My research interests are focused on the following two aspects. The first one is illuminating the molecular mechanisms involved in activation and regulation of the innate immune responses in insects. We pay special attention on the proteins present in insect hemolymph (insect blood) including serine proteases, serine protease inhibitors, and the proteins that recognize and bind microbial polysaccharides and etc. Our research goal is to understand how these proteins interact in response to invading microbes. The second one is investigating the interactions between insect pests and entomopathogenic fungi. Especially, we are interested the fungal molecules dampening pest immune defense or enhancing the entomopathogenicity of fungi, with the aim to improve the entomopathogenic potency of fungi by targeting the innate immunity in pests.

With the interests in biochemistry of important proteins in insects, including immunity-related proteins and Bacillus thuringiensis-resistance related proteins, I am conducting visiting research in Dr. Ping Wang’s laboratory in Department of Entomology at Cornell University. My project aims to identify the functional receptor(s) for Bt toxins in the insect midgut, using various biochemistry approaches. We are interested in depicting the molecular mechanisms of Bt resistance in agriculture pests.

Impacts in China

China has the world’s largest population. However, agricultural resources in China are limited and crop protection for agricultural production is challenging. Particularly, development of resistance to chemical pesticides in insect pests becomes more and more serious. Therefore, it is highly desirable to understand how pests survive infection of pathogens and become resistant to pesticides in the field. Our studies on insect innate immunity help better understanding the physiological defense of inset pests against entomopathogens and insecticidal chemicals. Our research generates fundamental knowledge important for improvement of insect control efficacy for pest management programs, and for development of new environment-friendly insect pest control strategies.