Microbiome Hijacking Towards an Integrative Pest Management Pipeline

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1195:21-32. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-32633-3_4.


Pesticides are necessary to fight agricultural pests, yet they are often nonspecific, and their widespread use is a hazard to the environment and human health. The genomic era allows for new approaches to specifically target agricultural pests, based on analysis of their genome and their microbiome. We present such an approach, to combat Bactrocera oleae, a widespread pest whose impact is devastating on olive production. To date, there is no specific pesticide to control it. Herein, we propose a novel strategy to manage this pest via identifying novel pharmacological targets on the genome of its obligate endosymbiotic bacterium Candidatus Erwinia dacicola. Three genes were selected as pharmacological targets. The 3D models of the Helicase, Polymerase, and Protease-C gene products were designed and subsequently optimized by means of molecular dynamics simulations. Successively, a series of structure-based pharmacophore models were elucidated in an effort to pave the way for the efficient high-throughput virtual screening of libraries of low molecular weight compounds and thus the discovery of novel modulating agents. Our methodology provides the means to design, test, and identify highly specific pest control substances that minimize the impact of toxic chemicals on health, economy, and the environment.

Keywords: Bactrocera oleae; Erwinia dacicola; Microbiome; Olive; Pest management.