Online access to spotted wing drosophila genome could accelerate research

December 2, 2013
OSU entomologist Peter Shearer
The spotted wing drosophila's genome allows researchers to develop new methods to control the pest (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University hopes to aid research on the fruit-damaging spotted wing drosophila by providing online access to the fly's newly sequenced genome.

OSU anticipates that scientists will use its new SpottedWingFlyBase website to develop ways to combat the invasive pest. Since its launch in November, the site has been used by researchers in dozens of countries, said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist with the OSU Extension Service.

"Scientists from all over the world are interested in knowledge locked inside the fly's genetic material," he said. "Genes will help reveal the pest's behavior, pesticide resistance and other biological attributes that will point the direction for future research."

The fly's genome was sequenced by at the University of California at Davis by Joanna Chiu, David Begun and Frank Zalom. The sequencing is the subject of a paper in the December issue of the journal G3: Genes, Genomes and Genetics. OSU’s Walton is a co-author.

Oregon State's website allows researchers to compare the genetic differences between the spotted wing drosophila and closely related drosophila species.

In the process, scientists hope to pinpoint odors and tastes attractive to the fly, potentially leading to the creation of new pheromone-based baits to trap it. They will also try to match the biology of the fly with pesticides that will be more effective.

The genome may also eventually aid American fruit exports, especially to countries fearful of invasion from the pest. By finding genetic markers unique to the fly, scientists hope to craft a DNA test that quickly determines if larvae found in fruit ready for shipping are spotted wing drosophila.

Native to Asia, the fly was first detected in the United States in 2008 and has since spread across the continent. It lays eggs in ripe and ripening fruit, which its larvae eat, causing blemishes that ruin the fruit's value. Significant losses to fruit crops have been reported in the U.S., Canada and Europe, said Walton, who an assistant professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences Department of Horticulture.

OSU is leading a collaborative multi-state, multi-agency effort to study the fly through a $5.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

The website was co-developed by Chiu of UC Davis.

Author: Daniel Robison
Source: Vaughn Walton, Silvia Rondon, Peter Shearer