Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Otago Scientists help decode the Honeybee Genome

Thursday 26 October 2006

Otago Scientists help decode the Honeybee Genome

University of Otago researchers have played an important role in a large international effort to unravel the genetic code of the humble honeybee, becoming the first New Zealand scientists to contribute to a published animal genome.

The two research teams, from the Biochemistry and Zoology departments, say the completed DNA sequence will allow new insights into bee biology, evolutionary processes and how learning and memory work at the molecular level.

Biochemistry’s Dr Peter Dearden and Dr Megan Wilson and Zoology’s Dr Kyle Beggs and Professor Alison Mercer are co-authors of the report on the final version of the bee genome published today in the world’s leading science journal, Nature.

As part of an international consortium of over 170 scientists from 16 countries, the Otago researchers contributed independently to identifying bee developmental genes and genes related to brain function and behaviour.

Dr Dearden says both University teams are excited and honoured to have been involved. He also noted that decoding the genome is an important scientific achievement, and may also offer clues in helping protect an insect vital to New Zealand’s economy.

“As well as crops directly relying on bee pollination being worth over $1.2 billion per year, pollination of pasture plants such as clover is estimated as providing more than $1.87 billion worth of nitrogen to our soils each year, he says.

“Deciphering the genome will speed our understanding of bee biology, which is central to efforts to come up with new ways to tackle threats such as the Varroa mite.

Dr Dearden’s and Dr Wilson’s contributions to the report included the discovery that bees lacked several important early developmental genes found in fruitflies - a key and unexpected finding, Dr Dearden says.

“The missing fruitfly genes control important aspects of early embryonic development and we were quite surprised that bees did not share them.”

Professor Mercer and Dr Beggs investigated the genes involved in the dopamine systems of bees. Dopamine is a chemical found in the brains of all animals. In humans, as well as in honey bees, it plays a significant role in learning and memory.

“Bees are a very valuable model for studying the biology of the brain and basic molecular mechanisms involved in learning and memory. New discoveries made about how dopamine systems work in bees can be correlated back to humans” says Dr Beggs.
“They have a highly advanced social structure and are extremely clever for insects. In fact, the ‘waggle’ dance they use to direct nestmates to food sources is the only known use of a symbolic language outside of primates,” he added.

The work of both research teams has been supported by grants from the New Zealand Marsden Fund.

Ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Voluntary Administration: Renaissance Brewing Up For Sale

Renaissance Brewing, the first local company to raise capital through equity crowdfunding, is up for sale after cash flow woes and product management issues led to the appointment of voluntary administrators. More>>

Elsewhere:

Approval: Northern Corridor Decision Released

The approval gives the green light to construction of the last link of Auckland’s Western Ring Route, providing an alternative route from South Auckland to the North Shore. More>>

ALSO:

Media Mega Merger: Full Steam Ahead For Appeal

New Zealand's two largest news publishers have confirmed they are committed to pursuing their appeal against the Commerce Commission's rejection of the proposal to merge their operations. More>>

Crown Accounts: $4.1 Billion Surplus

The New Zealand Government has achieved its third fiscal surplus in a row with the Crown accounts for the year ended 30 June 2017 showing an OBEGAL surplus of $4.1 billion, $2.2 billion stronger than last year, Finance Minister Steven Joyce says. More>>

ALSO:

Mycoplasma Bovis: One New Property Tests Positive

The newly identified property... was already under a Restricted Place notice under the Biosecurity Act. More>>

Accounting Scandal: Suspension Of Fuji Xerox From All-Of-Government Contract

General Manager of New Zealand Government Procurement John Ivil says, “FXNZ has been formally suspended from the Print Technology and Associated Services (PTAS) contract and terminated from the Office Supplies contract.” More>>