Genomics of bacterial symbionts to determine nutritional roles in plant-sap feeding insects

Adelgids are sap-sucking insects that exhibit complex life cycles. Plant sap is a poor nutrient source for insects to feed upon, so many insects engage in obligate relationships with bacterial endosymbionts that play nutritional roles in synthesizing nutrients unavailable or in low quantity from the plant-sap diets of their hosts. However, the contributions of bacterial symbionts to adelgid nutrition is currently unknown on a family-wide scale. This project will involve working with a graduate student to characterize genomes from adelgid insects, including the use of high-performance computing to quality-check raw sequence data, followed by assembly and annotation of bacterial genomes. Comparison of the nutritional roles of bacterial symbionts between adelgid species may reveal that the symbionts are influenced by the complex lifestyles of the insects, an evolutionary process that has not been described to date but could be important in many organisms.

Host laboratory: Gaelen Burke
Type of project: Quantitative/Computer-based