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Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
Vol. 133, 2016, Pages: 41–49

Genes involved in virulence of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana

Claudio A. Valero-Jiménez, Harm Wiegers, Bas J. Zwaan, Constantianus J.M. Koenraadt, Jan A.L. van Kan

Laboratory of Genetics, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Pest insects cause severe damage to global crop production and pose a threat to human health by transmitting diseases. Traditionally, chemical pesticides (insecticides) have been used to control such pests and have proven to be effective only for a limited amount of time because of the rapid spread of genetic insecticide resistance. The basis of this resistance is mostly caused by (co)dominant mutations in single genes, which explains why insecticide use alone is an unsustainable solution. Therefore, robust solutions for insect pest control need to be sought in alternative methods such as biological control agents for which single-gene resistance is less likely to evolve. The entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana has shown potential as a biological control agent of insects, and insight into the mechanisms of virulence is essential to show the robustness of its use. With the recent availability of the whole genome sequence of B. bassiana, progress in understanding the genetics that constitute virulence toward insects can be made more quickly. In this review we divide the infection process into distinct steps and provide an overview of what is currently known about genes and mechanisms influencing virulence in B. bassiana. We also discuss the need for novel strategies and experimental methods to better understand the infection mechanisms deployed by entomopathogenic fungi. Such knowledge can help improve biocontrol agents, not only by selecting the most virulent genotypes, but also by selecting the genotypes that use combinations of virulence mechanisms for which resistance in the insect host is least likely to develop.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Entomopathogenic fungi; Beauveria bassiana; Virulence genes; Virulence factors.

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