The complete genome of the Asian giant hornet published by the Agricultural Research Service: USDA ARS

Asian giant hornet (Tangerine Vespa)

Full genome of Asian giant hornet released by Agricultural Research Service

By Kim Kaplan
August 6, 2020

BELTSVILLE, MARYLAND, AUGUST 6, 2020—The first complete genome of the Asian giant hornet has been published by a team of scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS made the genome available to the research community in AgDataCommons and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, even before publishing the results in a scientific journal to make the data freely available as quickly as possible.

The goal is to produce the genome and make it available quickly after an invading insect is detected so that researchers have this information immediately to help coordinate an effective response.

Asian giant hornets are the largest wasps in the world, measuring 1.5 to 2 inches long. Their natural range extends from northern India to East Asia. Now they have been found in western Washington State as well as Vancouver Island and Langley, Canada.

Asian giant hornets worry beekeepers because they can attack honey bee colonies in late summer and early fall.

The team of ARS entomologists and DNA sequence experts began work in May in collaboration with biotech company Pacific Biosciences. They were able to quickly produce the full genome sequence from the thorax of a single frozen insect from the colony found in the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in September 2019.

Pacific Biosciences’ new Sequel II technology platform with HiFi or “High-Fidelity” fragments allowed more genetic information to be extracted more accurately from a single specimen, allowing the team to complete the genome in just two months. This is much faster than a genome is typically completed and from much less source material, demonstrating that genome sequencing can now be part of the real-time response to invasive species.

Computational biologist Anna Childers, of the ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, who coordinates the Asian giant hornet genome team, explained that it is important to establish the sequence of the current colony in North America. North. This will help determine if new finds are from the original source or potentially signal a separate introduction from their Asian homeland.

Genomic data is also collected from populations of Asian giant hornets throughout their native range so that differences between various subspecies can be mapped. Scientists can use the data to try to determine the origin of Asian giant hornets in North America.

“Having this reference genome will help provide a broader biological picture of the Asian giant hornet. It will also help to better understand the dynamics of all Asian giant hornet populations in this country and how they may adapt and possibly provide information to fine-tune the development of controls to prevent them from becoming established,” Childers said.

This work is part of the Ag100Pest initiative, an ARS program aimed at producing reference quality genome assemblies for the top 100 arthropod agricultural pests, including alien pest species that pose potential invasive threats to agriculture. American.

The faster development of reference genomes in response to the emergence of potentially dangerous invasive pests is a paradigm shift for invasive species management.

Thanks to advances in DNA sequencing and data preparation under the Ag100Pest initiative, faster response to new detections of pests such as the Asian giant hornet has become possible, removing the limitations that previously existed. due to sample size, DNA quality and complexity.

The Agricultural Research Service is the principal internal scientific research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Every dollar invested in agricultural research translates into $20 of economic impact.

Lana T. Arthur