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Researchers Sequence Pea Aphid Genome

Ithaca College faculty and student researchers were part of a team of more than 100 collaborators from 30 institutions worldwide in sequencing, for the first time, the genome of the pea aphid, an insect that has become a model system in biology for studying microbial symbiosis and the process of speciation.

“Our analysis of the pea aphid genome opens the door for researchers to better understand the biology of the aphid at the genetic and molecular levels,” said Marina Caillaud, associate professor of biology at Ithaca College.

“Because the pea aphid is a close relative of other insects that are serious agricultural pests worldwide, understanding the genetic underpinnings of this animal’s complex ecology—including its capacity to parasitize agricultural crops—will help design new strategies to disrupt pathways and control pests.”

Working with Caillaud in her laboratory were two undergraduates, Eric van Fleet and Jason Diaz. Both graduated in 2009 with bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry. Also playing important roles in the research were scientists from two other area institutions, the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and Cornell University. The Ithaca-area scientists led the effort to annotate genes involved in metabolizing and transporting sugars, amino acids, purines (the building blocks of DNA and RNA) and other metabolites.

Members of the three laboratories also contributed to identifying pea aphid genes important in overcoming plant defenses, including enzymes in aphid saliva and genes that play a crucial role in aphid transmission of viruses as they feed on plants.

The genome was sequenced at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center and published in the Feb. 23 issue of “Public Library of Science—Biology” (PLoS Biology). The research was supported by the Ithaca College Department of Biology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.

The “PLoS Biology” article is available at:

For more information, contact Marina Caillaud at

Marina Caillaud | Newswise Science News
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