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Fly genes explain pesticide resistance
University of Melbourne   
Tuesday, 13 November 2007

University of Melbourne researchers have contributed to a Nature paper analyzing the genomes of 12 fly species that consume compost, shedding light on the defence mechanisms of pests which damage agriculture.

The Nature paper reports the analysis of the sequence of the genomes of 12 different species of Drosophila (fruit flies) by a huge international team.

The University of Melbourne researchers Dr. Charles Robin, Robert Good (Research Assistant), Lloyd Low (PhD student) and Associate Professor Phil Batterham, from the Centre for Environmental Stress and Adaptation Research (CESAR) at the Bio21 Institute of Molecular Science and Biotechnology, looked at a large family of genes, some of which are involved in breaking down any poisons that the flies might consume.

Associate Professor Batterham who led the research says the comparison of the 12 genomes has allowed the genes that are likely to be involved in breaking down poisons to be identified.

“This genetic discovery of the Drosophila (flies) is critical in pointing to the genes that form the defence system of insect pests.”

“In pest insects such as blowflies and mosquitoes, the counterparts to these genes may be responsible for the break down of the chemical insecticides that are used to control them.”

Associate Professor Batterham says what is unique about these flies is that they feed on the yeast found on decomposing fruit and vegetable matter.

“They do not consume healthy fruit. However, while Drosophila flies are not pests, they are closely related to insect pest species.”

“Genome sequences of pest insects are needed, so that we might find ways of evading the defence systems of pest insects to reduce their impact on human health and agriculture.”

“This is of particular concern in countries with large agriculture industries such as Australia and the US.”

According to the paper, this international study provides an extensive resource for the study of sequence genetic diversity in a species, for which the Drosophila is an excellent model.


Editor's Note: Original news release can be found here.
 

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