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Genome advances peril for pests
Date:1/14/2010

/I> species have been utilized to conduct studies in genetics, epigenetics, male courtship behavior, evolution of speciation and social insect societies by consortium members Juergen Gadau, associate professor and associate dean for graduate studies; Stephen Pratt, assistant professor; Florian Wolschin, assistant research professor; and Joshua Gibson, doctoral student, who are also members of the Social Insect Research Group in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Gadau was one of eight researchers, including Werren and Richards, who developed the original Nasonia Whitepaper sent to the National Institutes of Health to encourage funding for the sequencing project in 2004.

Like the fruit fly Drosophila, a standard model for genetic studies for decades, Nasonia are small, can be easily grown in a laboratory, and reproduce quickly. However, Nasonia wasps offer an additional feature of interest: the males have only one set of chromosomes, instead of two sets like fruit flies and people.

"A single set of chromosomes, which is more commonly found in lower single-celled organisms such as yeast, is a handy genetic tool, particularly for studying how genes interact with each other," says Werren.

Unlike fruit flies, these wasps also modify their DNA in ways similar to humans and other vertebrates a process called "methylation," which plays an important role in regulating how genes are turned on and off during development.

"In human genetics we are trying to understand the genetic basis for quantitative differences between people such as height, drug interactions and susceptibility to disease," says Richards. "These genome sequences combined with haploid-diploid genetics of Nasonia allow us to cheaply and easily answer these important questions in an insect system, and then follow up any insights in humans."

The wasps have an additional advantage in that closely related species of Nas
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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