(PI is Nancy Moran)
A grant has been awarded the University of Arizona under the direction of Dr. Nancy A. Moran and Dr. Rod Wing to sequence the highly reduced genomes of bacteria that live as symbionts in xylem-feeding insects. Symbiotic bacteria are critical to the development and reproduction of many plants and animals, and their roles are now being explored using genomic approaches. In many animals, symbionts provision nutrients that are lacking in food. Many plant-feeding insects contain specialized bacterial symbionts that are required for normal development and reproduction. These bacteria have been difficult to study in the past because they cannot be grown outside their hosts. However, the capability to sequence their genomes now allows major new understanding of how these organisms function within their hosts. This project will determine and analyze the genomic sequence of symbionts that live in two insect species called sharpshooters, and a spittlebug species, all of which feed on plant xylem and that vector diseases of many crop plants. Each of these hosts contains a pair of symbiotic bacterial species. New approaches to genome sequence determination will be used in this collaboration between Dr. Moran, who investigates bacterial symbiont genomes, and Dr. Wing, who runs a sequencing and genome analysis center focused on plants. Analysis of the genomic sequence potentially will reveal critical aspects of symbiont biology that can be useful in the control of the hosts, which are significant agricultural pests. Results will be integrated in ongoing science education and outreach projects for college students as well as high school teachers and students.