The beetle's genome sequenced for the first time

March 25, 2008

75% of all animal species in the world are insects. The largest group within insects are beetles (400,000 species). Beetles can be very beautiful and colorful, but many beetle species are also serious agricultural pests that can destroy food plants like potatoes (the Colorado potato beetle) and threaten large areas of forest. Altogether, insect pests cause U.S. $ 26 billion in losses to U.S. agriculture yearly and beetles are responsible for a substantial part of this.

A pest for dried commodities such as corn, maize, rice, and flour, is the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum. A large international research consortium consisting of 64 research groups from 14 countries with the participation of a research team around Professor Cornelis Grimmelikhuijzen from the Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen has now sequenced the genome from Tribolium. This genome consists of about 200 million nucleotides (DNA building blocks) that code for about 16,000 genes (or 16,000 proteins). These sequencing efforts are extremely important for agriculture and will enable the development of new methods for the protection of food plants against beetles.

The results are also important to better understand the biology of the other beetle species, whose genome has not been sequenced yet. This makes Tribolium to the favorite model system in beetle research, says Cornelis Grimmelikhuijzen.
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University of Copenhagen

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