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
|Contact: Margaret Coulombe|
Arizona State University