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Moth DNA sequenced for potential insecticide targets


Scientists have identified 90 percent of the genes of Heliothis virescens, a pesky moth whose larvae—commonly known as tobacco budworms—are voracious caterpillars that destroy several types of crops, including cotton and soy. The sequence data will be used to identify potential targets for new insecticides that would be effective against moths and similar insect pests, according to the scientists.

Heliothis virescens.

The Heliothis project is the first major sequencing effort involving a member of the order Lepidoptera—a category of insects that includes moths and butterflies. The research was conducted by Genoptera LLC, a joint-venture company formed by Germany's Bayer AG chemical conglomerate and Exelixis, Inc., a genomics-based drug discovery company in California.

"For the first time, scientists will have state-of-the-art tools with which to identify and screen important genetic targets derived directly from the agriculturally relevant insect rather than from a closely-related model system," Exelixis' president, George A. Scangos, is quoted as saying.

Bayer will use the sequencing information for its own product development efforts and has no current plans to produce a finished genome sequence, a spokeswoman for Exelixis told GNN.

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Bayer and Exelixis joint venture, Genoptera, is first to sequence Heliothis moth genome. Press release, Exelixis, Inc., San Francisco, California (April 3, 2002).

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