Transformation of an Insect Symbiont and Expression of a Foreign Gene in the Chagas' Disease Vector Rhodnius Prolixus

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  • Yale-MacArthur Center for Molecular Parasitology, Departments of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
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A shuttle plasmid was developed that is capable of replicating both in Escherichia coli and in Rhodococcus rhodnii, a bacterial symbiont of the Chagas' disease vector Rhodnius prolixus. We have been able to transform R. rhodnii with this plasmid, infect aposymbiotic R. prolixus with the transformed symbiont, select with the antibiotic thiostrepton, and re-isolate genetically altered symbionts from the insects following successive molts. Symbiotic bacteria are potentially valuable as vehicles for the stable introduction of foreign genes into insects with the goal of eventually altering the ability of the insect to transmit a pathogenic agent.