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    The research in Chen-Zhu Wang’s laboratory focuses on physiological and molecular aspects of insect-plant interactions and chemical communications of insects. We take the advantages of a unique research model system of two sibling species of Helicoverpa (H. armigera and H. assulta). Despite their evolutionary proximity, the two species have different host ranges. H. armigera is a generalist and H. assulta a specialist. In the light of coevolution, our goal is to better understand (1) the mechanistic basis of the interactions between plants and insects and (2) the genetic basis of female sex pheromone signals and male olfactory responses..

    Our ongoing projects emphasize on chemical-directed behaviors and their underlying neurobiological mechanisms in the two species, and our long-term goal is to develop novel strategies for pest control via disrupting insect recognition to particular chemical cues of their host plants and mates. These projects are currently supported by Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), National Key R&D Program of China from Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), and the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

    We systematically examine the coevolutionary interactions between Helicoverpa species and their host plants, including plant chemical defense to insects and vice versa, and expand the interacting insects and plants system to a multitrophic system with emphases on the impact by the third trophic level on other trophic levels and the mechanisms underpinning host shifts on the evolution of insect host range. We have provided the evidence for that host generalization may be an alternative evolutionary strategy apart from host specialization, which is supported by pervasive polyphagous insects like H. armigera. Moreover, for the first time, we broke through the bottleneck of interspecific hybridization between H. armigera and H. assulta, and established a unique system for genetic studies and exploring their reproductive isolation mechanisms. Our specific objectives are to: (1) identify the genetic basis of the ecological differentiation, and (2) describe the evolutionary processes by which the differentiation is formed and maintained. Besides the two closely related species, we also extend our researches to other sympatric related species such as Mythimana separata and Spodoptera frugiperda.

    We begin to develop another system for studying plant-insect interactions, involving the cabbage Brassica oleracea L. and its specialist feeders. Glucosinolates are a group of sulfur- and nitrogen-containing secondary substances, which co-occur with myrosinases that catalyze their degradation to yield mustard oils. It is well-known that these compounds are used as “token stimuli” by some specialist caterpillars such as diamondback moths and cabbage butterflies in host-plant selection. We are leveraging genome editing in these caterpillars to study the function of olfactory and gustatory receptors involved in herbivory.

    We have established a versatile research laboratory for insect physiological studies using molecular and behavioral approaches. We aim to debunk the olfactory and gustatory perception of moths using various state-of-the-art molecular and neurobiological techniques, including CRISPR/Cas9, transcriptome, gene cloning and expression, in situ hybridization, Xenopus expression system coupled with two-electrode voltage-clamping, Drosophila expression system coupled with single cell recording, tip recording, intracellular recording, calcium imaging, EAG, GC-EAD, and wind tunnel. Modern chemical analytical tools such as GC, HPLC, FPLC, GC-MS are also used in our researches.

    Group Head: Prof. Dr. Chen-Zhu WANG
    Postal Address:
    The Stat Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents
    Institute of Zoologythe Chinese Academy of Sciences
    1 Beichen Xilu, Chaoyang District
    Beijing 100101
    Phone: (+ 86) 10 64807115 (Office); (+ 86) 10 64807080 (Lab)
    Fax: (+ 86) 10 64807099
    E-mail: czwang@


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