Genetics revealed the secrets of the success of Colorado beetles

© Photo : Zach Soapoperas bugsGenetics revealed the secrets of the success of Colorado beetles© Photo : Zach Cohen

American genetics were first decoded the DNA of Colorado beetles and identified a few genes responsible for unusually rapid adaptation of these insects to a new climate and ecology, said in an article published in the journal Scientific Reports.

«Interestingly, we failed to find significant differences in the structure of genes responsible for resistance to insecticides among Colorado potato beetles and other insects. It seems that they have acquired this capacity not by the emergence of new genes or genome rearrangements. All this makes this mystery even more interesting to explore,» says Sean Sowell (Sean Schoville) from uniersiteta of Wisconsin in Madison (USA).

Colorado beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) are one of the first invasive species that has spread across the Land and became one of the main types of pest thanks to «help» people. Spreading across the U.S. and Canada in the late 19th century, these bugs «migrated» along with the provisions of the United States army to France at the end of the First world war, and Germany after world war II.

The first attempt to destroy these bugs by using pesticides ended in failure – the American «invaders» as they were called by the farmers in the GDR were adapted to the poison and become immune to the effects of poisons. Further compounding the problem is that Colorado beetles have no natural enemies outside of the United States, making them one of the most dangerous and tenacious «enemies» of the harvest on Earth.

Savill and his colleagues have taken the first step to discovering the secrets of the success of these beetles, having their DNA and comparing the structure of their genome with other insects and harmless insects.

As noted geneticist, and his team were interested in two things – as the Colorado potato beetle could adapt to life in the harsh climate of Russia and other Northern countries of Europe in a very short time, and the secrets of its survival when in contact with new types of insecticides.

Scientists received the answer to the first question – it turned out that DNA of potato pests contains several dozen genes responsible for the production of a very wide range of enzymes that can digest extremely diverse proteins and sugars. This, according to genetics, allows Colorado potato beetle to be almost «omnivorous» insect, despite its narrow specialization on potato and other solanaceous plants.

On the other hand, Savill and his colleagues are unable to find the genes responsible for the invulnerability of Colorado beetles – those stretches of DNA that are responsible for combating insecticides, they have the same structure and dimensions as other insects. How scientists hope that further study of the genome will help them understand exactly how this «superpower» of beetles.

However, geneticists were able to find the «Achilles ‘ heel» of Colorado beetles was found that their cells are widely used short RNA molecules to block the action of specific genes that can be used to create more efficient versions of the insecticides to which pests adapt not as fast as DDT and other «killers Colorado beetles» of the past.

As noted Sowell, now his team is in the process of decoding the DNA of hundreds of Colorado beetles, and several of their relatives whose genomes as scientists hope, will help them uncover the other secrets of these pests and finally solve the problem 150 years ago.