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Novel biocontrol agents for insect pests from neuroendocrinology

Results and Outcomes of the nEUROSTRESSPEP Project

nEUROSTRESSPEP: An overview of the results, their exploitation and dissemination

  • For analysis of insect neuropeptides, we curated >6000 peptide sequences over representative 97% of insect species and developed a new, publicly-available insect neuropeptide database (DiNER).
  • We used cutting-edge ‘omics technologies for pest, beneficial and alien, invasive, insect species which has allowed complete and accurate prediction and identification of all bioactive neuropeptides. We also have successfully established and extended insect synthetic biology approaches for several insect species.
  • A range of functional studies including manipulation of neuropeptide gene expression was performed in 20 insect species for multiple neuropeptide families.
  • This confirmed specific neuropeptides as excellent candidates for species/order-specific insect biocontrol agents. Market analysis also validated the chosen targets in representative major pests.
  • >150 neuropeptide analogues were designed, synthesized and tested during the project for their ability to reduce insect survival, with assays to determine the most selective, stable and bioactive analogues.
  • The project has provided new bio-stable, bioavailable candidate peptide analogues which impact selectively on several pest species.
  • These have been tested on multiple species of non-target and beneficial insects including natural enemies and pollinators. There are no harmful effects of effective peptide analogues on multiple non-target and beneficial insect species, demonstrating a major impact for environmental sustainability and thus also achieving the project goals.
  • Overall, this exciting conclusion to the project has validated the conceptual framework, approaches, technologies and innovative reagents towards sustainable agriculture and horticulture.

  • nEUROSTRESSPEP has been disseminated widely, from policy events to exhibitions in more than 80 events at national and international levels across the EU. A range of materials for communication with key stakeholders, including a project brochure and a video content have been made and disseminated. Project outcomes have been provided for the general public in interactive format on the NSP website.
  • nEUROSTRESSPEP has also been represented in the popular press, at scientific conferences, trade exhibitions (e.g., InfoAgro, Almeria, Spain, attracting 40000 people) and at policy events. nEUROSTRESSPEP outcomes to date were recently communicated via an article posted on the KTN website and via KTN newsletter (6,000 subscribers), on external websites and newsletters e.g., BEIS, EuropaBio, SCI; Future of Crop Protection report by Horticulture Week (250,000+ practitioner audience). Successes and opportunity represented by the NEUROSTRESSPEP outputs, were highlighted in particular at the Stakeholder Event (Brussels, February 2019) and provided detailed coverage of the programme for a number of key industry and policy stakeholders.
  • Finally, nEUROSTRESSPEP has been featured as an EC ‘Success Story’ and communicated widely via EC channels.