Newswise — Most of us hate to find the red flour beetle living happily in the flour sack in our pantries. But for several scientists at Kansas State University, and many others throughout the world, this pest of stored grain and grain products is the best organism for studying genetics.
The superior status of this beetle, Tribolium castaneum, as an experimental system is largely because of the work of two Kansas State University faculty, Susan Brown, professor of biology, and Rob Denell, university distinguished professor of biology. They worked in collaboration with Richard Beeman, research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan.
This team won funding to get Tribolium's genome sequenced, making it one of the earliest insect genomes to be sequenced and the first pest insect to be studied in this way.
"We've been able to exploit Tribolium's ease of culture, short life cycle, and facile genetics to create an array of sophisticated methodologies," Denell said. "It now joins the fruit fly Drosophila as a premier insect genetic system, and even offers advantages in some areas of study."
The journal Nature will publish an article March 27 announcing the sequencing of the beetle's genetic material and summarizing the implications of this work.
"It's really exciting to see the burst of activity in Tribolium studies that has accompanied the sequencing project," Brown said. "This new information will greatly aid research on topics as diverse as insect pest management and the genetic control of development."
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, with additional support from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, sequencing of the beetle genome was led by Stephen Richards at the Human Genome Sequencing Center, Baylor College of Medicine. The genomic sequence, genetic maps and gene information are available from the National Center for Biotechnical Information and at http://www.beetlebase.org
Analysis to identify the actual genes was performed by the Tribolium Genome Sequencing Consortium, which consisted of more than 100 scientists representing 14 countries. Members also authored more than 20 other papers based on this work, including complete issues of the journals Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Development, Genes and Evolution.
Other contributing authors from K-State include: Yasuyuki Arakane, research assistant professor of biochemistry; Renata Bolognesi, research associate in biology; Karl J. Kramer, emeritus adjunct professor of biochemistry; Bin Li, research associate in entomology; Marce Lorenzen, adjunct assistant research professor of entomology; Jeremy Marshall, assistant professor of entomology; Sherry Miller, doctoral student in biology from Manhattan; Subbaratnam Muthukrishnan, distinguished professor of biochemistry; Yoonseong Park, assistant professor of entomology; Teresa D. Shippy, research assistant professor of biology; Yoshinori Tomoyasu, research assistant professor of biology.