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Wine Pest Sequenced

Researchers have sequenced the genome of an insect that ravaged the French wine industry in the 1800s, the Guardian reports.

The aphid-like grape phylloxera Daktulosphaira vitifoliae is native to North America and is thought to have accidentally spread to European vineyards and then beyond. A team led by Université de Rennes's Denis Tagu has sequenced the D. vitifoliae genome to better understand its spread.

As they report in BMC Biology this week, Tagu and his colleagues found by comparing various phylloxera genomes from across the world that ones from the upper Mississippi River basin were the likely initial source of the insects introduced into Europe, and that introductions into Australia and South America likely came from Europe. The researchers additionally found a large expansion of a novel effector gene family within the D. vitifoliae genome that they suspect may have enabled its adaptation to feeding on plants.

"Our results provide a detailed understanding of the genetics underlying invasion and reveal the potential threat to viticulture and native grapes naïve to phylloxera should naturally occurring populations that vary in gene repertoires invade," Tagu and his colleagues wrote in their paper.