Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes, Ph. D.
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Phone: (865) 974-5931
Lab: 365-369 Plant Biotech
Research in the Jurat-Fuentes laboratory is focused in two main areas:
- Characterization of the mode of action bacterial toxins expressed in transgenic plants for insect control and potential alterations in resistant insects. Projects in this area use Cry toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and the insect midgut epithelium as model for host-pathogen interactions. Cry toxins are currently expressed in transgenic Bt crops for effective and environmentally-safe insect control. Specific goals of these projects include the characterization of the mode of action of the toxins to develop strategies to enhance insect control, and the identification of mechanisms of resistance evolved in insects against Cry toxins and Bt crops. Information from our research on Cry toxins has direct applications in plant biotechnology, the design of novel insecticides, and the improvement of insect pathogens as biological pest control agents.
- Identification of novel cellulolytic enzymes to enhance degradation of lignocellulosic plant biomass during biofuel production. Projects in this area use insects as prospecting resource for novel enzymes capable of degrade lignocellulosic biomass more efficiently, reducing costs of biofuel production. After an extensive screen for insect with elevated cellulolytic activity, our efforts are now concentrated on characterizing the specific enzymes involved in this activity. Once cloned, specific enzymes will be tested for applications in biorefineries and plant biotechnology to make lignocellulosic biofuel production cost-effective against fossil fuels.