The parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis: An emerging model system for genetics, molecular biology, and biocontrol research.

Dave Wheeler *1

1 Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North

Nasonia vitripennis is a small (1-2 mm) wasp that parasitises several filth fly species that are important human and agricultural pests. Nasonia has become the lab rat of hymenoptera research, as it has several features that make it an excellent genetic system, including a short generation time, ease of rearing, RNA interference, and a well annotated and sequenced genome. The genome project has provided a wealth of polymorphisms that facilitate positional cloning of genes involved in species differences in behavior, morphology, and development. Advances in the genetics of this system also open a path for improvement of parasitoid insects as agents of pest control. The venom of Nasonia is also interesting from the perspective of identifying bioactive compounds that might be useful in the development of pharmaceuticals. To this end, we have used Next generation sequencing technologies to developed the flesh fly (Sarcophaga bullata) as an assay system to study venom function. In this talk I will introduce the Nasonia system, describe some interesting aspects of its biology and genome, as well as highlight some recent results from our venom research.

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