Fruit Fly Study Provides Insight into Bee Immune
December 7, 2007
Honey bees and other insects
important to agriculture could get help from recent genetic studies of an
agricultural pestthe fruit fly, according to Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators
who have completed genome sequences of 12 fruit fly species.
The fruit fly, Drosophila, is often used as a model organism in
genetic studies. The researchers analysed immune genes in the 12 fly species
and report that the study offers insights into the immune system of honey bees,
a valuable pollinator beset by a variety of problems, including the highly
publicized colony collapse disorder (CCD).
The analysis of the immunity-related genes in Drosophila was done by
Evans at the
Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and researchers at
Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.;
Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.; and
Umea University in Umea,
Sweden. The study was published recently in Nature Genetics.
Having the complete genetic sequences for the 12 fruit fly species will
provide researchers tools for dissecting the evolutionary history of the
Drosophila immune system. Eventually, this may enable scientists to test
immune predictions for honey bees and other agriculturally beneficial insects.
That's because both insects share numerous disease-resistance traits.
Insects' immune systems must constantly evolve to remain effective against a
changing array of diseases and other threats. These changes are evident when
examining the genes involved in immune response.
Before this sequencing study, general patterns have been difficult to
discern, because previous studies focused on a small number of genes in a few
particular species. The current study describes how the immune systems of the
well-studied fruit fly group have changed over time, strengthening comparisons
to bees and other insects of agricultural importance.
Additional information can be found at:
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.