Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Termite genome lays roadmap for 'greener' control measures

Date:
May 20, 2014
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
A team of international researchers has sequenced the genome of the Nevada dampwood termite, providing an inside look into the biology of the social insect and uncovering new genetic targets for pest control. The genome could help researchers develop control strategies that are more specific than the broad-spectrum chemicals conventionally used to treat termite infestations.

Michael Scharf eyes a group of eastern subterranean termites, destructive pests in Indiana and the Eastern U.S.
Credit: Purdue University photo / Tom Campbell

A team of international researchers has sequenced the genome of the Nevada dampwood termite, providing an inside look into the biology of the social insect and uncovering new genetic targets for pest control.

Michael Scharf, a Purdue University professor of entomology who participated in the collaborative study, said the genome could help researchers develop control strategies that are more specific than the broad-spectrum chemicals conventionally used to treat termite infestations.

"The termite genome reveals many unique genetic targets that can be disrupted for better termite control," said Scharf, who is the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology. "Depending on which gene or protein that is targeted, we could disrupt termites' neurological processes, molting, digestive factors or cuticle formation. We're just limited by our imagination."

The Nevada dampwood termite is the first termite species to have its genome sequenced. While dampwood termites do not cause significant damage to buildings, they are closely related to key pests such as the eastern subterranean termite, which is the main pest species in Indiana and the Eastern U.S.

Termites are major pests of human structures, costing an estimated $40 billion in damage and control treatment each year. Having the genome in hand will enable researchers to look for common features expressed across termite species to find control targets effective for all types of termites, Scharf said.

Current termite control measures consist largely of synthetic chemical-based products, some of which are toxic to vertebrates.

"While current pesticides are very effective products, the problem is that you're injecting large volumes of them into the soil around the house," Scharf said. "It would be nice to move to a greener technology, and that's what the genome sequence could enable us to do."

Baiting termites with small quantities of treated wood that they could eat and share with colony-mates would be one such technique, he said. Newer technology such as gene silencing, which targets termite RNA to reduce the expression of critical genes, could also knock out the pests.

"With termites, you don't have to impact all of them," he said. "Targeting just a fraction of the workers could cause an entire colony to collapse."

The study also highlights genes related to chemical communication, the way in which termites "talk" to one another to signal aggression or a desire to reproduce.

"There's a lot of social strife in a termite colony, and it's got to stay cohesive to survive," Scharf said. "Chemical communication is crucial to keeping the labor force in place."

The genome could also help researchers better understand the symbiosis between termites and the more than 4,000 species of bacteria that thrive in their guts, aiding in processes such as digestion and defense. Previous studies of the termite gut were hampered by the inability to distinguish between termite and microbe genes. Understanding the gut biology is important to Scharf, who is researching the enzymes that termites use to digest wood. Identifying these enzymes could lead to novel methods of producing cellulosic biofuels.

"The genome provides a well-defined roadmap that could help us find the right cocktail of enzymes to break wood down into its simple sugars," he said. "It takes a lot of the guesswork out."

The study was published in Nature Communications Tuesday (May 20).

Funding for the research was provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Deutschen Forschungsgemeinscharf and the Loewe Research Focus "Insect Biotechnology."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. The original article was written by Natalie van Hoose. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicolas Terrapon ; Cai Li ; Hugh M. Robertson ; Lu Ji ; Xuehong Meng ; Warren Booth ; Zhensheng Chen ; Christopher P. Childers ; Karl M. Glastad ; Kaustubh Gokhale ; Johannes Gowin ; Wulfila Gronenberg ; Russell A. Hermansen ; Haofu Hu ; Brendan G. Hunt ; Ann Kathrin Huylmans ; Sayed M.s. Khalil, ; Robert D. Mitchell ; Monica C. Munoz-Torres ; Julie A. Mustard ; Hailin Pan ; Justin T. Reese ; Michael E. Scharf ; Fengming Sun ; Heiko Vogel ; Jin Xiao ; Wei Yang ; Zhikai Yang ; Zuoquan Yang ; Jiajian Zhou ; Jiwei Zhu ; Colin S. Brent ; Christine G. Elsik, ; Michael A. D. Goodisman ; David A. Liberles ; R. Michael Roe ; Edward L. Vargo ; Andreas Vilcinskas ; Jun Wang, ; Erich Bornberg-Bauer ; Judith Korb ; Guojie Zhang, ; Jurgen Liebig. Molecular traces of alternative social organization in a termite genome. Nature Communications, May 20, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/nscomms4636

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Termite genome lays roadmap for 'greener' control measures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520123445.htm>.
Purdue University. (2014, May 20). Termite genome lays roadmap for 'greener' control measures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520123445.htm
Purdue University. "Termite genome lays roadmap for 'greener' control measures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140520123445.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Genome of Primitive Termite Sequenced

May 20, 2014 Findings on the genetic blueprint of the relatively primitive dampwood termite highlight key differences and similarities with other social insects like ants, wasps and bees, and provide insight into ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins