April 21, 2020  |  

Insect genomes: progress and challenges.

In the wake of constant improvements in sequencing technologies, numerous insect genomes have been sequenced. Currently, 1219 insect genome-sequencing projects have been registered with the National Center for Biotechnology Information, including 401 that have genome assemblies and 155 with an official gene set of annotated protein-coding genes. Comparative genomics analysis showed that the expansion or contraction of gene families was associated with well-studied physiological traits such as immune system, metabolic detoxification, parasitism and polyphagy in insects. Here, we summarize the progress of insect genome sequencing, with an emphasis on how this impacts research on pest control. We begin with a brief introduction to the basic concepts of genome assembly, annotation and metrics for evaluating the quality of draft assemblies. We then provide an overview of genome information for numerous insect species, highlighting examples from prominent model organisms, agricultural pests and disease vectors. We also introduce the major insect genome databases. The increasing availability of insect genomic resources is beneficial for developing alternative pest control methods. However, many opportunities remain for developing data-mining tools that make maximal use of the available insect genome resources. Although rapid progress has been achieved, many challenges remain in the field of insect genomics. © 2019 The Royal Entomological Society.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Modern View of B Chromosomes Under the Impact of High Scale Omics Analyses.

Supernumerary B chromosomes (Bs) are extra karyotype units in addition to A chromosomes, and are found in some fungi and thousands of animals and plant species. Bs are uniquely characterized due to their non-Mendelian inheritance, and represent one of the best examples of genomic conflict. Over the last decades, their genetic composition, function and evolution have remained an unresolved query, although a few successful attempts have been made to address these phenomena. A classical concept based on cytogenetics and genetics is that Bs are selfish and abundant with DNA repeats and transposons, and in most cases, they do not carry any function. However, recently, the modern quantum development of high scale multi-omics techniques has shifted B research towards a new-born field that we call “B-omics”. We review the recent literature and add novel perspectives to the B research, discussing the role of new technologies to understand the mechanistic perspectives of the molecular evolution and function of Bs. The modern view states that B chromosomes are enriched with genes for many significant biological functions, including but not limited to the interesting set of genes related to cell cycle and chromosome structure. Furthermore, the presence of B chromosomes could favor genomic rearrangements and influence the nuclear environment affecting the function of other chromatin regions. We hypothesize that B chromosomes might play a key function in driving their transmission and maintenance inside the cell, as well as offer an extra genomic compartment for evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genes of the pig, Sus scrofa, reconstructed with EvidentialGene.

The pig is a well-studied model animal of biomedical and agricultural importance. Genes of this species, Sus scrofa, are known from experiments and predictions, and collected at the NCBI reference sequence database section. Gene reconstruction from transcribed gene evidence of RNA-seq now can accurately and completely reproduce the biological gene sets of animals and plants. Such a gene set for the pig is reported here, including human orthologs missing from current NCBI and Ensembl reference pig gene sets, additional alternate transcripts, and other improvements. Methodology for accurate and complete gene set reconstruction from RNA is used: the automated SRA2Genes pipeline of EvidentialGene project.


April 21, 2020  |  

Mitochondrial DNA and their nuclear copies in the parasitic wasp Pteromalus puparum: A comparative analysis in Chalcidoidea.

Chalcidoidea (chalcidoid wasps) are an abundant and megadiverse insect group with both ecological and economical importance. Here we report a complete mitochondrial genome in Chalcidoidea from Pteromalus puparum (Pteromalidae). Eight tandem repeats followed by 6 reversed repeats were detected in its 3308?bp control region. This long and complex control region may explain failures of amplifying and sequencing of complete mitochondrial genomes in some chalcidoids. In addition to 37 typical mitochondrial genes, an extra identical isoleucine tRNA (trnI) was detected at the opposite end of the control region. This recent mitochondrial gene duplication indicates that gene arrangements in chalcidoids are ongoing. A comparison among available chalcidoid mitochondrial genomes reveals rapid gene order rearrangements overall and high protein substitution rates in most chalcidoid taxa. In addition, we identified 24 nuclear sequences of mitochondrial origin (NUMTs) in P. puparum, summing up to 9989?bp, with 3617?bp of these NUMTs originating from mitochondrial coding regions. NUMTs abundance in P. puparum is only one-twelfth of that in its relative, Nasonia vitripennis. Based on phylogenetic analysis, we provide evidence that a faster nuclear degradation rate contributes to the reduced NUMT numbers in P. puparum. Overall, our study shows unusually high rates of mitochondrial evolution and considerable variation in NUMT accumulation in Chalcidoidea. Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier B.V.


April 21, 2020  |  

Toxin and genome evolution in a Drosophila defensive symbiosis.

Defenses conferred by microbial symbionts play a vital role in the health and fitness of their animal hosts. An important outstanding question in the study of defensive symbiosis is what determines long term stability and effectiveness against diverse natural enemies. In this study, we combine genome and transcriptome sequencing, symbiont transfection and parasite protection experiments, and toxin activity assays to examine the evolution of the defensive symbiosis between Drosophila flies and their vertically transmitted Spiroplasma bacterial symbionts, focusing in particular on ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs), symbiont-encoded toxins that have been implicated in protection against both parasitic wasps and nematodes. Although many strains of Spiroplasma, including the male-killing symbiont (sMel) of Drosophila melanogaster, protect against parasitic wasps, only the strain (sNeo) that infects the mycophagous fly Drosophila neotestacea appears to protect against parasitic nematodes. We find that RIP repertoire is a major differentiating factor between strains that do and do not offer nematode protection, and that sMel RIPs do not show activity against nematode ribosomes in vivo. We also discovered a strain of Spiroplasma infecting a mycophagous phorid fly, Megaselia nigra. Although both the host and its Spiroplasma are distantly related to D. neotestacea and its symbiont, genome sequencing revealed that the M. nigra symbiont encodes abundant and diverse RIPs, including plasmid-encoded toxins that are closely related to the RIPs in sNeo. Our results suggest that distantly related Spiroplasma RIP toxins may perform specialized functions with regard to parasite specificity and suggest an important role for horizontal gene transfer in the emergence of novel defensive phenotypes.


April 21, 2020  |  

Development of CRISPR-Cas systems for genome editing and beyond

The development of clustered regularly interspaced short-palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas systems for genome editing has transformed the way life science research is conducted and holds enormous potential for the treatment of disease as well as for many aspects of biotech- nology. Here, I provide a personal perspective on the development of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing within the broader context of the field and discuss our work to discover novel Cas effectors and develop them into additional molecular tools. The initial demonstra- tion of Cas9-mediated genome editing launched the development of many other technologies, enabled new lines of biological inquiry, and motivated a deeper examination of natural CRISPR-Cas systems, including the discovery of new types of CRISPR-Cas systems. These new discoveries in turn spurred further technological developments. I review these exciting discoveries and technologies as well as provide an overview of the broad array of applications of these technologies in basic research and in the improvement of human health. It is clear that we are only just beginning to unravel the potential within microbial diversity, and it is quite likely that we will continue to discover other exciting phenomena, some of which it may be possible to repurpose as molecular technologies. The transformation of mysterious natural phenomena to powerful tools, however, takes a collective effort to discover, characterize, and engineer them, and it has been a privilege to join the numerous researchers who have contributed to this transformation of CRISPR-Cas systems.


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