Researchers from the University of Geneva and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics led an analysis of the sequenced genomes of parasitic wasps. Generally unknown to the public, the parasitic wasps kill pest insects. They are like 'smart bombs' that seek out and kill only specific kinds of insects.
Harnessing their full potential would thus be vastly preferable to chemical pesticides, which broadly kill or poison many organisms in the environment, including humans. The results of this large study are featured in today's issue of Science. Professor Evgeny Zdobnov from the University of Geneva Medical School and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics directed the comparative evolutionary genomics studies as part of this international project, which revealed many features that could be useful to pest control and medicine, and to enhance our understanding of genetics and evolution.
The scientists sequenced and analysed the genomes of three parasitoid Nasonia wasp species. "Comparing the genes and genomes of those wasps revealed almost 7'000 genes that have recognisable counterparts in humans (orthologues)", says Zdobnov. "However, the wasp is more different from its closest sequenced relative, the honeybee, than humans are from chickens". In addition to being useful for controlling pests and offering pharmaceutically interesting venoms, the wasps could act as a new genetic system with a number of unique advantages. So far, fruit flies have been the standard model for genetic studies, mainly because they are small, can be grown easily in a laboratory, and reproduce quickly. On top of sharing these traits, Nasonia present another advantage. Male Nasonia have only one set of chromosomes, instead of two sets like fruit flies and people, so that "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 John H. Werren from the University of Rochester, who led the project together with Stephen Richards from the Genome Sequencing Centre at the Baylor College of Medicine.
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. "Importantly", says Zdobnov, "our comparative analyses discovered hundreds of Nasonia genes that are shared with humans but absent from fruit flies, opening new avenues for their functional investigation in these genetically tractable wasps". "We identified changes to metabolic pathways that may reflect the amino-acid rich carnivorous diet of these parasitoids. Such information could support efforts to produce artificial diets for parasitoid wasp mass rearing in biological control and improve hymenopteran cell culture methods".
Emerging from these genome studies are many opportunities for exploiting Nasonia wasps in topics ranging from pest control to medicine, genetics, and evolution. "Insects are the most diverse group of terrestrial animals", says Zdobnov, "and the sequencing of the wasp genome significantly augments the opportunities for scientists to examine the genetic basis of this incredible diversity that underlies their success".
The SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics is an academic not-for-profit foundation federating bioinformatics activities throughout Switzerland. Its two-fold mission is to provide world-class core bioinformatics resources to the national and international life science research community in key fields such as genomics, proteomics and systems biology; as well as to lead and coordinate the field of bioinformatics in Switzerland. It has a long-standing tradition of producing state-of-the-art software for the life science research community, as well as carefully annotated databases. The SIB includes 29 world-class research and service groups, which gather close to 400 researchers, in the fields of proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics, systems biology, structural bioinformatics, evolutionary bioinformatics, modelling, imaging, biophysics, and population genetics in Geneva, Lausanne, Berne, Basel and Zurich. SIB expertise is widely appreciated and its services are used by life science researchers worldwide.
ContactsProfesseur Evgeny Zdobnov,
Irene Perovsek | EurekAlert!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy