(Beyond Pesticides, November 13, 2007) Researchers from across the globe have contributed to a Nature article, which analyzed the defense mechanisms of 12 fly species that damage agricultural crops. The analysis may shed some light on why some insects are able to metabolize toxins and become resistant to pesticides.
The paper is part of a series published online edition of the journal Nature special issue on Drosophila (fruit fly) biology, genomics and evolution. A large international team conducted the analysis of the sequence of genomes of 12 different species of fruit flies. Part of the team were researches from the University of Melbourne, Australia, who focused on genes which may be responsible for breaking down poisons that the fly consumes. Comparison of the 12 genomes has allowed the genes that are likely to be involved in breaking down poisons to be identified, said Associate Professor Phil Batterham.
“This genetic discovery of the Drosophila is critical in pointing to the genes that form the defense 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.”
Fruit flies are unique because they feed on the yeast found on decomposing fruit and vegetable matter. Prof. Batterham noted, “[T]hey 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 defense systems of pest insects to reduce their impact on human health and agriculture.”
He also noted that the investigation of the defense mechanisms of pest insects is of particular concern in countries with large agriculture industries such as Australia and the US.
Drosophila species vary considerably in their morphology, ecology and behavior, and are found in a wide range of global distributions. As such, it has become a model organism in basic research, especially, genetics.