Butterflies are exceptionally diverse but their potential as an experimental system has been limited by the difficulty of deciphering heterozygous genomes and a lack of genetic manipulation technology. In order to develop butterflies as new models for exploring such topics as genetic mechanism of morphological evolution, the researchers from the Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences, BGI-Shenzhen, and University of Chicago of USA construct high quality reference genomes for Papilio xuthus and P. machaon,, highly heterozygous species that differ in host plant affiliations and adult and larval color patterns. Integrating comparative genomics and analyses of gene expression yields multiple insights into butterfly evolution, including potential roles of specific genes in recent diversification. To functionally test gene function, these researchers develop an efficient (up to 92.5%) CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing method that yields obvious phenotypes with three genes, Abdominal-B, ebony, and frizzled. These results provide valuable genomic and technological resources for butterflies, and unlock their potential as a genetic model system.
The related results was published online in Nature Communications (http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150910/ncomms9212/full/ncomms9212.html; doi:10.1038/ncomms9212) on September 10. Xueyan Li and Guichun Liu (KIZ, CAS), Dingding Fan and Lu Zhang (BGI), Wei Zhang (USA) contributed equally to this work. Wen Wang (KIZ), Marcus R. Kronforst (USA), Guojie Zhang and Wen Wang (BGI) jointly supervised this work. This project was funded by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences and from Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology.
(By Xue-Yan Li)
Xue-Yan LI, Ph.D
Max-Planck Junior Scientist Group on Evolutionary Genomics,
Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)