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Extra Variation

Researchers have uncovered additional genetic variation lurking with in the fruit fly genome that they say influences a number of key traits.

A team led by the University of California, Irvine's JJ Emerson assembled a new Drosophila melanogaster genome that's of reference quality — the first new one, it says, since the fly was initially sequenced. As the team reports in Nature Genetics, it used long reads generated by single-molecule real-time sequencing to generate a genome assembly for the D. melanogaster A4 strain.

When they compared their new assembly to the current fruit fly reference genome, the researchers uncovered additional genetic variation such as large indels, including transposable element insertions, inversions, and CNVs. In particular, Emerson and his colleagues note that one of these transposable element insertions ramps up the expression of detoxification-related genes linked to nicotine resistance, suggesting a possible way in which the flies have become resistant to nicotine-containing pesticides.

"This study is the first of its kind in complex organisms like the fruit fly. With this unique resource in hand, we have already characterized several candidate structural variation which show evidence for phenotypic adaptation, which can function to drive species evolution," Emerson says in a statement.