Agricultural Pest's Genome is Sequenced
March 24, 2008
Scientists have completed sequencing
the entire genetic blueprint of a key agricultural pest: the red flour beetle.
This accomplishment is a "first" for any beetle. Tribolium
castaneum thus joins the ranks of other fully sequenced model
organisms such as the fruit fly. The work is reported in the March 27
issue of the journal Nature.
Accomplishment of this feat was largely due to the efforts of Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) entomologist
W. Beeman, Kansas State University
collaborators Susan Brown and Rob Denell, and Stephen Richards and Richard
Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine
Human Genome Sequencing Center in
Houston, Texas. Beeman is based at the ARS
Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kan. ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
scientific research agency.
The red flour beetle is a significant pest of stored grain and grain
products worldwide, and the most important insect pest in flour mills. It's a
voracious feeder that, together with its grain-ingesting cousins, causes
millions of dollars of damage annually. The insect possesses several quirks
that the completed sequence data may help explain.
For instance, unlike other insects, such as nectar-foraging bees and
blood-hungry mosquitoes, the red flour beetle isn't very discriminating about
what it eats. While feeding mostly on wheat flour, it can survive on a wide
range of foods, including cornmeal, nuts, crackers, cake mixeven
chocolate. T. castaneum can adapt not only to a variety of diets, but
also to a range of environmental conditions. It has a very specialized
kidney-like organ that allows it to survive extremely dry environments.
More than 100 scientists representing 14 countries participated in the
discovery and analysis of genes encoded in the completed sequence. The group,
officially called the Tribolium Genome Sequencing Consortium, began its
work after completion and assembly of the raw sequence data. The project was
funded by grants from the National Human
Genome Research Institute, which is part of the
National Institutes of Health, and
The sequenced genome may provide clues to help in thwarting this important
agricultural pest. And gaining insight into T. castaneum's
ability to establish resistance to many classes of insecticide could open new
doors to insect pest management strategies in general.