The spotted wing drosophila, a major pest that attacks berries and cherries and other fruits, is being targeted by scientists via an open access genome database.
The genome study, published in the journal G3: Genes, Genomics, Genetics, is expected to accelerate basic and applied research, leading to better monitoring and control strategies for the pest.
“To enable basic and applied research of this important pest, Drosophila suzukii, we sequenced the genome to obtain a high-quality reference sequence,” says molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Chiu and Professor David Begun of the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology led the genomics team of collaborative researchers from four institutions.
The posting of the genome and comparative sequence analysis on the publicly accessible SpottedWingFlyBase web portal could lead to more species-specific weapons to combat the destructive pest, Chiu says. Scientists are looking at its biology, behavior, food and odor preferences, and pesticide resistance.
“Many researchers are working hard to study the biology of this insect through basic and applied projects, and we hope our efforts in presenting our genomic data in a user-friendly Web portal will democratize the sequence data and help facilitate everyone’s research, especially those who do not have expertise in genome and sequence analysis,” she says.
The spotted wing drosophila, a native of Asia that was first detected in the United States in 2008, is wreaking economic havoc on crops such as blueberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries. This fly lays its eggs inside the ripe or ripening fruit, and the developing larvae feed on the soft fruit, crippling crop yields.
The spotted wing drosophila is a vinegar fly about 1/16 to 1/8 inch long with red eyes, pale brown thorax, and a black-striped abdomen. The males have a distinguishing black spot toward the tip of each wing. Females have no spots but have a prominent, saw-like ovipositor for drilling fruit to lay their eggs.
Chiu teamed with scientists at UC Davis, Oregon State University, the China National Gene Bank, and the American Museum of Natural History as part of a $5.8 million project on the biology and management of spotted wing drosophila.
Frank Zalom, professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, says that the G3 article “presents a high-quality reference sequence of Drosophila suzukii, examination of the basic properties of its genome and transcriptome, and description of patterns of genome evolution in relation to its close relatives.”
Oregon State University entomologist Vaughn Walton, lead investigator says: “Scientists from all over the world are interested in knowledge locked inside the fly’s genetic material.” He also points out that the genome work may relieve the fears of countries wishing to import American fruit, but not the pest. By finding the fly’s unique genetic signature, scientists hope that DNA testing will quickly determine if ready-to-be-shipped fruit contains spotted wing drosophila larvae.
A US Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant funded the research.
Source: UC Davis