Insect research has a long tradition both at the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) and at the National Centre for Scientific Research (NCSR) “Demokritos”). At the Department of Agricultural Biotechnology (AUA), the laboratory headed by Dr. Anna Kourti in collaboration with Dr. Dimitris Kontogiannatos, has focused research on insects regarding molecular physiology and endocrinology such as molecular and metabolic studies of diapause, biotechnology, novel bioassays and RNA interference. At the Institute of Biosciences & Applications (NCSR “Demokritos”), Dr. Luc Swevers has worked intensively on the development of biotechnological methods for generation of engineered insect cell lines and viruses and for identification of bioactive substances that interfere with the insect endocrine system.
More recently, after the recognition of the fundamental importance of the process of RNA interference (RNAi) and its possible applications in medicine and agriculture, both groups have been involved in the analysis of the process of RNAi in lepidopteran insects. At AUA, different methods of RNAi delivery (dsRNA injection, bacterial feeding, baculovirus infection) to the corn borer were tested and evaluated with respect to disruption of development of this pest. At “Demokritos”, the silkworm, Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae), was used as an experimental model to investigate different parameters that could interfere with the RNAi process in Lepidoptera (dsRNA degradation, non-specific activation of immune response, persistent viral infection).
Both groups also worked on the annotation of the genes that constitute the RNAi machinery in the Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), a world-wide pest of potato, for which RNAi-based methods for control are now being developed.