John P. Burand
Professor of Microbiology, University of Massachusetts
Ph.D.: Microbiology, Washington State University, 1979 Postdoctoral Training: Texas A&M University; Boyce Thompson Institute
Many insect viruses offer a safe and environmentally sound alternative to chemical insecticides. These naturally occurring agents are quite often specific to particular target insects and do not infect plants or other animals. The full potential of insect viruses as microbial control agents has not been fully realized, however, due to the lack of information on their biology, ecology, and molecular biology. Research in my laboratory is centered on understanding more about the biology and the molecular biology of the interactions between these viruses and their insect hosts with the idea that this information can be used to improve them as microbial control agents. One research project involves developing a sexually transmitted virus as a microbial insecticide. This virus persists in the larval stages of insects and is then induced into productive replication in reproductive tissues causing sterility in adult moths. Not all virus-infected insects are sterile; however, some infected moths are fertile, asymptomatic carriers of the virus which are capable of transmitting the virus on to the next generation of insects. We are interested in determining what molecular events occur during virus replication in the host that lead to both productive replication, resulting in sterile insects and persistent replication, producing asymptomatic carriers. Insect baculoviruses provide a safe eukaryotic system for the high-level expression of a wide variety of foreign gene products and are currently being used for the high-level expression of important proteins. My interests are in utilizing this system both as a tool to study gene regulation in insects and for the expression of protein products from other sources as well as genes from insects.