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New Research Tool Enhances Honeybee Genomics Research

News Release

Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 2006 – With funding from the USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, researchers at the University of Illinois (UI) developed and distributed a microarray of the honeybee genome, which will enhance and accelerate research on the honeybee genome.

“Honeybees are valued at $20 billion annually for the role they play in pollinating plants, making a significant contribution to agriculture productivity,” said Gale Buchanan, USDA under secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “This research will help protect the health of this vitally important species.”

The microarray, a device that can measure thousands of genes simultaneously, allows scientists to study honeybee genes and apply the information to a broad range of research interests for bees and other organisms. For example, American Foul Brood (AFB), a disease caused by bacteria, attacks bee larvae. Large infestations of AFB can lead to the death of entire honey bee colonies. The microarray lets researchers look at how AFB is affecting the bee, what genes are involved in the process, and, more importantly, scientists can determine an appropriate immune response to provide further protection for honey bee health.

UI researcher Gene Robinson and colleagues released the honeybee microarray for public distribution through the UI W.M. Keck Center for Comparative and Functional Genomics. This resource provides entomologists and biologists all over the world access to the microarray for genomic studies on insects and comparative research with several other organisms. 

CSREES funded this research project through the National Research Initiative (NRI) Functional Genomics of Agriculturally Important Organisms program. The NRI is the largest peer reviewed, competitive grants program in CSREES. It supports research, education, and extension grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov.