The genome of the tomato russet mite

(c) Ronald Ochoa (large view)

(c) Ronald Ochoa

(05-11-2020) Researchers Wannes Dermauw, Nicky Wybouw and Thomas Van Leeuwen (Department of Plants and Crops, UGent), in collaboration with VIB Ghent, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Utah, deciphered the genome of the tomato russet mite.

The tomato russet mite, Aculops lycopersici, is a very small animal, merely a tenth of a millimeter in size. This arachnid is able to block the natural resistance of its host, tomato, and is an important pest on tomato worldwide.

The genome is the complete genetic composition of an organism, cell or virus.

The tomato russet mite has one of the smallest animal genomes reported to date. Amongst other things, an unprecedented massive loss of introns -DNA segments within a gene that do not code for protein- lies at the basis of this miniature genome. The mite also lacks several genes essential for leg development, which might explain why it has only two pairs of legs, as opposed to the four pairs of legs that are present in most arachnids. In addition, this mite has an extremely reduced set of detoxification and chemoreception genes, much likely limiting the number of hosts on which it can feed.

Deciphering the tomato russet mite genome also has practical applications. It provides a resource for the development of methods of early detection of mite infestations and the limited set of detoxification genes could be exploited to efficiently combat this pest.

Click here to read the paper.