ARS Scientist Leads National Effort To
Decipher Beetle's Genes By
November 13, 2003
Scientists will soon have access to the entire genetic blueprint
of a key agricultural pest, the red flour beetle, thanks largely to the efforts
of an Agricultural Research Service
The National Human Genome
Research Institute, part of the National
Institutes of Health, recently gave the green light for this project and
has named it a high priority. ARS entomologist Richard Beeman,
Kansas State University collaborators Susan
Brown and Rob Denell, and Richard Gibbs of the
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston,
Texas, will sequence the complete genome of the red flour beetle.
That means the beetle, Tribolium castaneum, will soon
join the ranks of other model organisms like the fruit fly. But this will be
the first time that the genome of a beetle or of an agricultural pest will be
Tribolium is a significant pest of stored grain and grain
products worldwide. Insight into its ability to establish resistance to many
classes of insecticide could open new doors to insect pest management
Because the red flour beetle is a member of the largest and most
diverse animal order, Coleoptera, discoveries about its DNA will shed light on
beetles as a group--organisms unmatched in their global abundance, range of
habitat and evolutionary success.
Beeman will be supplying the DNA for the project. He'll choose
an isogenic, highly inbred strain that is equivalent, he says, to an army of
identical beetle twins. The strain's lack of genetic variation will ease the
For two decades, Beeman has been studying the genetics of T.
castaneum from his lab at the ARS Grain Marketing and Production Research
Center in Manhattan, Kan. His advances in the field, including the project
he initiated to assemble a physical map of the beetle genome, will supplement
information gained by the sequencing project.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.