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Insect Physiology
We work with insect gUTs
Contact us and learn more about our research in our Facebook group page

Welcome to our lab!!!

Our research is focused on the insect gut as biological model to target for development of pesticides but also as a prospecting resource for discovery of new enzymes with biotechnological applications. Projects in our lab aim at understanding the molecular characterization of interactions between the gut epithelium and insecticidal bacterial proteins and how alterations in these interactions that result in insect resistance. Our expertise is in Cry toxins produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), but we also work on other entomopathogenic bacteria and insecticidal RNA interefrence (RNAi). Our prospecting efforts are concentrated on the identification of novel enzymes for improved plant biomass biofuel production.

Our research projects have been supported by funding from the National Sciences Foundation, the BRAG program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), the Tennesssee Soybean Promotion Board, the Southeastern Sun Grant Center, and industry partners. Main areas of research in our lab include:

1) Characterization of the mode of action of Cry toxins and mechanisms of resistance against these toxins in diverse insect orders. This project includes the identification of Cry toxin receptors, the characterization of the physiological response to intoxication in insects, as well as the mechanisms of resistance insects develop to survive Cry intoxication.
2) Characterization of the insect gut regenerative response after Cry intoxication and the role of this mechanism in resistance to Cry toxins in Lepidoptera. Our efforts are concentrated on identifying growth factors involved in the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells to overcome gut epithelium damage after exposure to Cry toxins. We are also investigating the putative role of enhanced gut regeneration in resistance to Cry toxins.
3) Screening for the identification of novel cellulases in insects with potential use in production of cellulosic ethanol. We are actively screening and identifying novel cellulolytic systems from insect digestive fluids to make cellulosic ethanol a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels.
Results from these research projects have direct applications in biotechnology, cell culture, bioenergy, design of novel insecticides, improvement of insect pathogens as biological pest control agents, and the inhibition of disease transmission by vector insects.

Please visit our website and contact us if you would like to know more about our lab.

Last updated:September 2018


Dr. Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
The University of Tennessee
370 Plant Biotechnology Building
2505 E. J. Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN, 37996
Tel: (865) 974-5931