EUGENE, Ore. -- University of Oregon researchers studying mosquitoes have produced the first chromosomal map that shows regions of chromosomes that activate and are apparently evolving in animals in response to climate change.
The map will allow researchers to narrow their focus to identify specific genes that control the seasonal development of animals. Such information will help predict which animals may survive in changing climates and identify which disease-carrying vectors may move northward, allowing for the production of appropriate vaccines, said William E. Bradshaw and Christina M. Holzapfel, researchers in the department of biology and members of the UO Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
"For the first time, we are moving down the track to identify genes that animals use to control their seasonal development," Bradshaw said. "Response to day length is often the primary cue that organisms use for going dormant, and although human beings are not as strongly seasonal as other animals, there are nonetheless seasonal components to our health and welfare just as there are in plants and animals."
The chromosomal map for the mosquito Wyeomyia smithii, which develop within the carnivorous leaves of pitcher plants, appears online ahead of publication in the May issue of the journal Genetics. The UO researchers identified regions on three chromosomes that respond to length of day, which scientists call photoperiodism. Two of the chromosomes also have overlapping gene expression that tells the species to go dormant, which they must do to survive.
"This chromosomal map is drawing a lot of interest in terms of understanding the genetic response of animals to rapid climate change and also to understanding the metabolic processes involved in disease intervention in humans and other complex organisms," Holzapfel said.