Scientists sequence genome of plant world's "mosquito"

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Washington, Feb 23 (ANI): Scientists from more than 10 nations took part in the sequencing and analysis of the genome of the pea aphid, which is considered as the "mosquito" of the plant world.

The "mosquito" reference for these insects come because they depend on the juices of the plants to survive.

They live in symbiosis with bacteria that pass from one generation to the next, producing amino acids that are essential to the aphids.

"Because this is a different kind of insect - not a fruit fly, not a beetle, not a hymenoptera (butterfly and moth) - we are seeing things that people have not seen in other genome projects," project leader Stephen Richards said.

Princeton University's David Stern agreed with Richards that the aphid presents a special case.

"Look at this little insect, sitting on a plant and sucking plant juices. You don't realize that it is involved in a historic battle with plants for access to their life blood. All its genes have evolved to allow it to exploit its feeding relationship," he said.

"We found a lot of genes - 35,000 compared to 15,000 to 20,000 in other insects, and 25,000 in humans," said Richards.

"Thus it seems that pea aphids have duplicated some of their genes," said Dr. Denis Tagu of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.

It means that the pea aphid probably did a kind of 'back-up' of its genetic material.

One hypothesis is that one copy of this back-up is kept unchanged and used for the functioning of the cells and the organism, and the second set can develop modifications by mutation.

"Most of the mutations are probably neutral or negative for the genes, with no effect on the biology of the organism. But some rare mutations might produce new functions for some of the genes that might help, in this case, the pea aphid adapt to its environment," said Stern.

"Another possibility is that maybe aphids require extra copies of genes to regulate all parts of their complex life cycles," he said.

"They have multiple forms to adapt to different environments. There are winged and wingless forms and some that produce asexually but give birth to live offspring," he added.

"This genome has generated far more exciting questions than we could have anticipated. There is more mystery in this genome than anyone would have expected," he said. (ANI)

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