Posts Tagged: Joanna Chiu
Who would have thought?
Who would have thought that ants are more closely related to bees than they are to most wasps?
In ground-breaking research to be published Oct. 21 in Current Biology, a team of UC Davis scientists and a colleague from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, has found that ants and bees are more genetically related to each other than they are to social wasps such as yellow jackets and paper wasps.
"Despite great interest in the ecology and behavior of these insects, their evolutionary relationships have never been fully clarified," said senior author and noted ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at UC Davis. "In particular, it has been uncertain how ants—the world’s most successful social insects—are related to bees and wasps. We were able to resolve this question by employing next-generation sequencing technology and advances in bioinformatics. This phylogeny, or evolutionary tree, provides a new framework for understanding the evolution of nesting, feeding and social behavior in Hymenoptera."
The researchers used state-of-the-art genome sequencing and bioinformatics to produce this significant research.
The six-member team: Ward; molecular geneticist and assistant professor Joanna Chiu; honey bee scientist and assistant professor Brian Johnson; doctoral student-researcher Marek Borowiec of the Ward lab; and postdoctoral researcher Joel Atallah of the Johnson lab, all with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and visiting scientist Ernest K. Lee of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History.
Ants, bees and stinging wasps all belong to the aculeate (stinging) Hymenoptera clade -- the group in which social behavior is most extensively developed.
Said Chiu: “With a phylogeny or evolutionary progression that we think is reliable and robust, we can now start to understand how various morphological and/or behavioral traits evolved in these groups of insects, and even examine the genetic basis of these phenotypic changes.”
Said Johnson, whose lab studies the genetics, behavior, evolution and health of honey bees: "Using transcriptomics we were able to resolve a long standing question regarding the evolutionary relationships between stinging wasps, ants, and bees. We found that ants and bees are more closely related than previously thought. This result should be important for future studies focused on eusocial evolution, as it suggests that morphology may not be a good indicator of evolutionary relatedness in these groups of organisms."
The abstract: "Eusocial behavior has arisen in few animal groups, most notably in the aculeate Hymenoptera, a clade comprising ants, bees, and stinging wasps. Phylogeny is crucial to understanding the evolution of the salient features of these insects, including eusociality. Yet the phylogenetic relationships among the major lineages of aculeate Hymenoptera remain contentious. We address this problem here by generating and analyzing genomic data for a representative series of taxa. We obtain a single well-resolved and strongly supported tree, robust to multiple methods of phylogenetic inference. Apoidea (spheciform wasps and bees) and ants are sister groups, a novel finding that contradicts earlier views that ants are closer to ectoparasitoid wasps. Vespid wasps (paper wasps, yellow jackets, and relatives) are sister to all other aculeates except chrysidoids. Thus, all eusocial species of Hymenoptera are contained within two major groups, characterized by transport of larval provisions and nest construction, likely prerequisites for the evolution of eusociality. These two lineages are interpolated among three other clades of wasps whose species are predominantly ectoparasitoids on concealed hosts, the inferred ancestral condition for aculeates. This phylogeny provides a new framework for exploring the evolution of nesting, feeding, and social behavior within the stinging Hymenoptera."
A bee and an ant; they're more closely related than they are to most wasps. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ants and bees are more genetically related to each other than they are to social wasps, such as this yellow jacket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Want to develop skills that will make your application to graduate school, medical school or veterinary school really stand out from the crowd?
The UC Davis Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology is recruiting undergraduate students who are eager to experience one-on-one research training and mentorship.
This will be the third cohort of students.
The program, now officially approved by the Academic Senate, is coordinated by professor Jay Rosenheim and assistant professors Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu, all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology provides the opportunity to learn research skills in all areas of biology, including:
- behavior and ecology
- population biology
- mathematical bology
- human health
- cell biology
- molecular biology
Applications are now being accepted from first and second-year students and first-year transfer students. The application deadline is April 10, 2013. More information on the program and how to apply is on the program’s website.
Successful venture? Yes, indeed. Two members of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology recently received President's Undergraduate Fellowship Program (PUF) grants.
They are Sarah Staley, mentored by medical entomologist Anthony “Anton” Cornel, associate entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier; and Don Hoang, mentored by evolutionary geneticist Artyom Kopp, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology.
Staley and Hoang were among 25 undergraduate students receiving grants from a pool of 62 applicants. Staley submitted her proposal titled “Prevalence of Leucocytozoa Infections in Potential Vector Populations of Black Flies in Alaska.” Hoang's proposal: "The Yeast/Drosophila Relationship: Is it Meant to Last?”
Read their story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
No small feat. Great things are happening in the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology. Jay Rosenheim, Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu are making it happen.
Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology at UC Davis, doing research in a meadow. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Molecular neurobiologist Anupama Dahanukar, assistant professor at UC Riverside, will speak on "Taste Receptors and Feeding Preferences in Insects" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
UC Davis assistant professor Joanna Chiu, who studies the molecular genetics of animal behavior, will host the seminar, which is scheduled to be recorded for later viewing on UCTV.
The seminar will focus on the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, exciting research under way in the Dahanukar lab.
"We are interested in the molecular neurobiology of feeding behavior," Dahanukar says. "Insects use highly diverse groups of gustatory receptors (Grs) to taste the chemical world and determine the palatability of potential food sources. In Drosophila melanogaster, the 68 receptors of this family are expressed in complex combinatorial patterns in taste neurons. In previous studies we and others identified a highly conserved clade of eight Gr genes that encode sugar receptors. Although some of these have been linked to detection of sweet compounds by genetic analysis, their precise functions are still poorly understood. Little is also known about how stimuli that are typically not rich in sugars trigger highly attractive gustatory responses in Drosophila."
"Using genetic and evolutionary analysis, we recently found that Gr64e, a receptor in this clade, plays an essential role in feeding preference for beer and other yeast fermentation products. We identified that Gr64e is necessary for neuronal and behavioral responses to an abundant component of yeast and fermentation products, glycerol. Moreover, Drosophila species that carry a polymorphism disrupting Gr64e function have reduced behavioral preference for beer, suggesting that Gr64e may contribute to specific evolutionary variations in appetitive selectivity. Ectopic expression of the Gr64e receptor in an olfactory neuron is sufficient to confer glycerol sensitivity. We have extended this ectopic expression system to identify that each sweet Gr protein serves as a determinant for recognition of unique but overlapping subsets of sweet tastants."
"We have also obtained functional expression of a taste receptor from the mosquito Anopheles gambiae in Drosophila. We are now poised to further investigate taste detection and Gr function in Drosophila and other insects."
A noted scientist, Dahanukar received a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2012; the Whitehall Foundation Award in 2011; and the 2000 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. She was awarded a Government of India National Merit Scholarship in 1990.
Dahanukar holds a bachelor of science degree in life sciences from Bombay University, India; a master's degree in environmental management from Duke University, Durham, N.C.; and a doctorate in genetics in 1999 from Duke University, where she studied patterning along the anterior-posterior axis in Drosophila embryos. In 1999, she joined the laboratory of John Carlson at Yale University to pursue post-doctoral training in the molecular neurobiology of insect chemosensory systems. Dahanukar joined the faculty of the UC Riverside Department of Entomology in 2009.
Molecular neurobiologist Anupama Dahanukar of UC Riverside working with Drosophila cultures with junior specialist, Adriana Medina.
But how many people know about its migration?
Steve Reppert, chair and professor of the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will speak on "Monarch Butterfly Migration: Behavior to Genes" at the Department of Entomology seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
"Studies of the iconic migration of the eastern North American monarch butterfly have revealed mechanisms behind its navigation using a time-compensated sun compass," Reppert says. "Skylight cues, such as the sun itself and polarized light, are processed through both eyes and integrated in the brain’s central complex, the presumed site of the sun compass. Circadian clocks that have a distinct molecular mechanism and that reside in the antennae provide time compensation. The draft sequence of the monarch genome has been presented, and gene-targeting approaches have been developed to manipulate putative migration genes. The monarch butterfly is an outstanding system to study the neural and molecular basis of long-distance migration." (See lab research.)
Hosts are Joanna Chiu, assistant professor of entomology, and Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, will host the talk. Dingle, an authority on animal migration, was featured in a National Geographic cover story, "Mysteries of Great Migrations" in November 2010.
Reppert received his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, in pre-medicine, and his medical degree from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neurobiology at the National Institutes of Child Health (NICHD), NIH, in 1979. He is a professor of pediatrics (neuroscience) at Harvard Medical School (2001 to the present) and since 2000, a pediatrician at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Reppert became the chair of the Department of Neurobiology, UMass Medical School in 2001, the same year he became the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience at UCMass Medical School. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Among his publications on monarchs:
Reppert SM, Gegear RJ, Merlin C (2010). Navigational mechanisms of migrating monarch butterflies. Trends in Neurosciences (TINS) 33:399-406.
Heinze S, Reppert SM (2011). Sun compass integration of skylight cues in migratory monarch butterflies. Neuron 69:345-358.
Zhan S, Merlin C, Boore JL, Reppert SM. The monarch genome yields insights into long-distance migration. Cell 2011; 147:1171-1185.
Reppert's talk will be video-recorded and posted on UCTV at a later date.
Monarch butterflly shares a Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) with a honey bee at the Haagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven, UC Davis, last summer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The new year hasn't begun, but already assistant professors Joanna Chiu and Brian Johnson are gearing up for the UC Davis Department of Entomology's winter seminar series, set Jan. 9-March 13.
All seminars will take place on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison Drive and Kleiber Hall Drive. The seminars will be video-recorded and posted at a later date on UCTV. So, if you can't make it to the seminar in person, you can cozy up to your computer monitor at a later date.
They promise to be educational and informative.
Erin Wilson, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Louie Yang lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, leads off with her talk about "Effects of Omnivorous Invaders on Arthropod Communities in a Fragmented Landscape." She will zero in on those pesty rats (Rattus rattus) in Hawaii.
Wednesday, Jan. 9
Postdoctoral Associate, University of Maryland
Title: "Effects of Omnivorous Invaders on Arthropod Communities in a Fragmented Landscape"
Host: Louie Yang, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Wednesday, Jan. 16
Michael Branstetter (exit seminar)
Buck Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Title: "Uncovering the Origins of a Middle American Ant Radiation: insights from Natural History, Biogeography and Molecular Data"
Host: Phil Ward, professor. UC Davis Department of Entomology
Wednesday, Jan. 23
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Biology, North Carolina State University
Title: "Landscape Conservation for Rare Insects"
Host: Neal Williams, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Wednesday, Jan. 30
Paul de Barro
Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO ecosystem sciences
Title: "Unravelling the Complex Bemisia tabaci (Silverleaf Whitefly): From Biotype to Species"
Host: Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology
Wednesday, Feb. 6
Entomologist, USDA-ARS Bee Biology Lab
Title: "Dietary Needs of Adult Solitary Bees: Consequences for Reproduction and Pollination"
Host: Leslie Saul-Gershanz, graduate student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Wednesday, Feb. 13
Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Title: "Monarch Butterfly Migration: Behavior to Genes"
Hosts: Joanna Chiu, assistant professor, and Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor
Wednesday, Feb. 20
Professor, UC Berkeley
Title: "Light Brown Apple Moth – Not a Typical Invader"
Host: Mary Louise Flint, entomology specialist and associate director for Urban and Community Integrated Pest Management (IPM), UC Statewide IPM Program
Wednesday, Feb. 27
Assistant Professor, UC Riverside
Title: "Taste Receptors and Feeding Preferences in Insects"
Host: Joanna Chiu, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Wednesday, March 6
Assistant Professor, University of Lausanne
Title: "Ecological, Evolutionary and Genetic Drivers of Plant Defenses against Herbivores"
Host: Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Wednesday, March 13
Associate Professor, Kansas State University
Title: "Dissecting the Molecular Interplay Between Plant Viruses and their Arthropod Vectors"
Host: Diane Ullman, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology, and associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
So, there you have it--everything from ants, monarchs and the light brown apple moth to feeding preferences in insects.
Monarch butterfly will take the spotlight on Feb. 13. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)