Issue (Who cares and why?)
The mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, causes the annual loss of billions of board feet of lumber. It is the most devastating insect pest of North American coniferous forests. Despite the economic importance of this beetle, very little is known about its biochemistry or molecular biology. This project will investigate biochemical and molecular mechanisms this bark beetle uses to communicate and deal with the tree it lives in. Genes involved in these processes may become targets for future directed control strategies. That is, use them to identify genes involved in pheromone biosynthesis, endocrine signaling, and tree bark detoxification.
What has been done?
Separating the wheat from the chaff, researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have created a stable complementary DNA library from both male and female bark beetles. Starting with over 12,000 potential DNA sequences, the team trimmed the number of genes down to a little over 4,000 tentatively unique genes.
Sequence and microarray clustering analyses (finds groups of genes that are similar) were combined to identify putative pheromone biosynthetic genes. The genes were then cloned into expression vectors (used to introduce a specific gene into a target cell to produce large amounts of stable messenger RNA) for functional characterization.
The sequence data have been deposited into NIH’s genetic sequence database "GenBank" and the microarray data has been submitted to National Center for Biotechnology Information’s Gene Expression Omnibus web site.
In the realm of bark beetles, and for that matter the beetle sub-family Scolytidae, this is the first functional genomics analysis to date. The database created by the research team at the University of Nevada is a resource for all researchers working to identify unique targets for future control strategies. Some novel, apparently bark beetle-specific genes have been identified. These novelty genes are excellent candidates as targets against which methods to mitigate mountain pine beetle population explosions may be developed.
The team also developed a website to facilitate comparative analyses of beetle family Coleopteran genomics "BarkBeetleBase". The data is now being shared with a research group headed by Joerg Bohlmann and Christopher Keeling (University of British Columbia).