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Landmark project to map genomics of complex ant systems
Date:7/9/2009

Emory, and a co-investigator on the project. "DNA sequencing technology is becoming faster and cheaper, but this transition is just happening. The amount of data that this grant is providing us will likely be easily obtainable within five years, but right now we're among the first to explore co-evolution from a genomics perspective."

For years, Gerardo and her collaborators have studied the biology, environmental influences and chemistry of fungus-growing ants. The wealth of new data generated by the grant will include three areas of DNA sequencing: genomics, providing all of the base pairs of DNA within an organism; transcriptomics, revealing which genes are being turned on during a given situation; and metagenomics, delineating which organisms are within a system.

Bringing genomics into classrooms

Among the many mysteries Gerardo looks forward to analyzing through the sequencing data are the genetics underlying ant diversity. "We think that humans are so complex, but ants in these colonies have different sizes and muscle structures," she says. "The genetic basis for what makes a soldier ant different from a worker ant is an incredibly interesting question in biology."

A key part of the project is bringing genomics into classrooms, by giving high school and college students experience at analyzing genomic data.

"We hope to build up a public research community around this project to facilitate broader analysis," says Taylor, a leading expert in bio-informatics. "We will provide supporting infrastructure to allow people to discover new things. This project is novel and it's going to be fun."


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Contact: Beverly Clark
beverly.clark@emory.edu
404-712-8780
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

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