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Red Flour Beetle's 'Selfish' Gene Sequenced

Date:
August 12, 2008
Source:
USDA - Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
Tracking the red flour beetle in grain storage facilities could become easier, thanks to research to identify a key gene in this grain-feeding pest.

Determining the genetic code of a key gene could make the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), a major problem.in grain storage facilities, easier to track and may offer new ways to control this pest.
Credit: Photo by Peggy Greb

Tracking the red flour beetle in grain storage facilities could become easier, thanks to research to identify a key gene in this grain-feeding pest.

Researchers with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Purdue University, the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Kansas State University, and Exelixis, Inc. in South San Francisco, Calif., have determined the genetic code of the so-called "selfish" gene in the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).

This genetic information may offer a potential tracking tool for facilities where grain is stored. Operators could use the information to determine whether beetles are local or from a distant location--and even to develop a plan to control infestations.

ARS entomologist Richard Beeman and molecular biologist Marcι D. Lorenzen at the agency's Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kan., deciphered the genetic code of the "selfish" gene. The research was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The selfish gene is important because red flour beetles that don't inherit it from their mother don't survive. It is called the selfish gene because, whether beneficial or deleterious, it ensures its own perpetuation through the population. These genes are widespread in natural populations of red flour beetles, but are otherwise unknown in the invertebrate world.

According to Beeman, the discovery in red flour beetle may provide a useful vehicle for driving desirable genes into populations, since the gene spreads almost like a disease, and since hitchhiker genes can be attached to it. Malaria researchers think other, similar genes introduced into mosquito populations could reduce the spread of mosquito-borne malaria infections. It may be possible to "attach" another gene to the malaria gene that could negate or minimize its function, thus impeding mosquitoes from spreading the disease.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA - Agricultural Research Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA - Agricultural Research Service. "Red Flour Beetle's 'Selfish' Gene Sequenced." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807081350.htm>.
USDA - Agricultural Research Service. (2008, August 12). Red Flour Beetle's 'Selfish' Gene Sequenced. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807081350.htm
USDA - Agricultural Research Service. "Red Flour Beetle's 'Selfish' Gene Sequenced." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080807081350.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

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