© 2018 Ferguson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Drosophila suzukii or spotted wing Drosophila is an economically important pest which can have a devastating impact on soft and stone fruit industries. Biological pesticides are being sought as alternatives to synthetic chemicals to control this invasive pest, but many are subject to degradation either in the environment or in the insect gut and as a result require protection. In this study we identified a sharp change in pH of the adult midgut from neutral to acidic (pH <3), which we then exploited to develop poly(2-vinylpyridine) (P2VP) microcapsules that respond to the change in midgut pH by dissolution and release of their cargo for uptake into the insect. First, we used labelled solid poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) particles to show that microcapsules with a diameter less than 15 μm are readily ingested by the adult insect. To encapsulate water-soluble biological species in an aqueous continuous phase, a multiple emulsion template was used as a precursor for the synthesis of pH-responsive P2VP microcapsules with a fluorescent (FITC-dextran) cargo. The water-soluble agent was initially separated from the aqueous continuous phase by an oil barrier, which was subsequently polymerised. The P2VP microcapsules were stable at pH > 6, but underwent rapid dissolution at pH < 4.2. In vivo studies showed that the natural acidity of the midgut of D. suzukii also induced the breakdown of the responsive P2VP microcapsules to release FITC-dextran which was taken up into the body of the insect and accumulated in the renal tubules.
Ferguson, C. T. J., Al-Khalaf, A. A., Isaac, R. E., & Cayre, O. J. (2018). pH-responsive polymer microcapsules for targeted delivery of biomaterials to the midgut of Drosophila suzukii. PLoS ONE, 13(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201294