Laboratory of Molecular Cytogenetics
We study the structure and function of nuclear genomes in insects and other arthropods with emphasis on key questions of chromosome biology and evolution. For chromosome research we use advanced methods of molecular cytogenetics along with standard cytogenetic techniques. The methods include various modification of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) such as FISH with telomeric and rDNA probes, genomic in situ hybridization (GISH), comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), gene mapping with the help of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) probes (the so-called BAC-FISH), and comparative chromosome painting (Zoo-FISH) with chromosome-specific probes prepared by laser microdissection. We also construct and further use for research DNA sequence libraries of microdissected chromosomes.
Current research projects
Molecular differentiation and evolutionary history of sex chromosomes in Lepidoptera
Figure: Molecular evolution of sex chromosomes in Lepidoptera
Sex chromosomes and their differentiation belong to most interesting questions of evolutionary genetics. In animals, overwhelming majority of data on the sex chromosome evolution were obtained in organisms with male heterogamety (i.e. with XY sex chromosome systems) such as flies and mammals. Much less is known about organisms with female heterogamety, possessing a WZ sex chromosome system or its variations. This particularly regards moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera), the largest animal group with female heterogamety. In selected models we study physical features of lepidopteran genomes, perform synteny mapping of conserved genes, and examine molecular differentiation of sex chromosomes with the aim to uncover evolutionary history of lepidopteran karyotypes and contribute to understanding general mechanisms of sex chromosome evolution. This research is done in collaboration with Walther Traut (Lübeck, Germany) and Ken Sahara (Sapporo, Japan).
[PI: F. Marec]
Development of genetic sexing lines in the codling moth
Figure: Scheme of genetic sexing in Lepidoptera using transgenic females
The codling moth, Cydia pomonella, is the key pest of pome fruit and walnut orchards in the temperate regions of the world. The extensive use of insecticides used to control this pest has resulted in the development of resistance to these chemicals, and there is an increasing demand on the use of environment-friendly control tactics such the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). Codling moth SIT relies on the mass rearing and release of genetically sterile both males and females into a wild population. Male-only releases could significantly reduce costs and increase efficiency of SIT. Our goal is to develop genetic sexing lines of the codling moth by inserting a selectable transgene (a dominant conditional lethal mutation of the Notch gene) into the female-specific W chromosome. Under restrictive conditions the transgene would abort development of females and thus, non-transgenic male-only offspring would be produced for irradiation and release. Research steps to achieve this goal include identification of molecular markers of the sex chromosomes, isolation of codling moth ortholog of the Notch gene, creation of plasmid constructs carrying a temperature-sensitive mutant allele of the Notch gene, generation of transgenic lines, and mapping of the inserted transgene on the W chromosome. This research is part of international project co-ordinated by IAEA (Vienna, Austria) and is done in collaboration with Lisa G. Neven (Wapato, WA, USA).
[PI: F. Marec]