Chemical treatments for killing nematodes, called nematicides, are dangerous to humans and other animals so they've been restricted in use for decades. Technology for controlling nematodes has advanced little in the past three decades.
Besides being a devastating crop pathogen, Meloidogyne incognita has some remarkable biological adaptations that make it a fascinating organism to study.
Baum said that the sex of the tiny worms, or better the lack thereof is very intriguing. Only females reproduce and they do so without having sex, so it remains a puzzle why males of the species even exist. And since the females don't mate to reproduce, the offspring should be genetically identical to the mother -- like a clone - but they aren't. And as the offspring matures into males or females, some start as females and then change into males.
Baum's group included postdoctoral researcher Tarek Hewezi and assistant scientist Tom Maier from Iowa State. The three worked on a specific part of the genome and performed manual annotations of genes. Professor Davis and postdoctoral research associate, Noureddine Hamamouch, used the current known parasitism genes to identify the full suite or predicted parasitism genes in the root-knot nematode genome.
With this sequencing done, Baum thinks researchers can now try to understand this nematode. He also cautions that finding ways to control this pest will be a long process.
"For any effort in which you want to control the nematode, this is a great resource," Baum said. "But having the genome is only one of many steps in the right direction. Albeit, a very big one!"
|Contact: Thomas Baum|
Iowa State University