Developing genomics tools for Frankliniella occidentalis
Anna Whitfield, Plant Pathology
Dorith Rotenberg, Plant Pathology

Project Summary
The western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, is an important crop pest and an efficient
vector of several economically important tospoviruses, including Tomato spotted wilt virus
(TSWV). Our long-range goal is to utilize thrips genomics tools to develop biologically-based
strategies that specifically control insect populations and prevent TSWV spread. Despite the
world-wide importance of thrips in agriculture, there is little knowledge of the F. occidentalis
genome or gene functions at this time. To that end, our research goal is to develop thrips
sequence and genomics tools for the study of F. occidentalis. With these tools, we will perform
preliminary gene expression studies to identify a suite of candidate insect genes that may play
important roles in virus infection of the thrips midgut. We hypothesize that TSWV infection of F.
occidentalis alters the insect midgut transcriptome. To test our hypothesis, we will address the
following objectives:
Create expressed sequence tag (EST) resources for the F. occidentalis midgut, and in
collaboration with the Kansas State University Bioinformatics Center, construct a F.
occidentalis database that will be a resource for the arthropod research community.
Identify differentially-expressed genes in TSWV-infected F. occidentalis midguts. We will
create microarrays to profile transcriptomes of TSWV-infected insects.
The outcomes of our proposed research will reach our global scientific community in several
ways. First, we will develop a database of F. occidentalis midgut sequences that will be publicly
available as a web-based database and will be useful for exploring the biology of F. occidentalis
and for comparison to other insect pests and vectors. Second, we will develop new technologies
to study the biological roles of other important genes in F. occidentalis. The PDs have
complementary expertise in thrips-TSWV molecular interactions (A. W.) and quantitative biology
in plant microbe interactions (D. R.) and collaborations with experts in bioinformatics (L.J.
Wang), microarray construction and gene expression analyses (J. Bai and Nimblegen), will
collectively strengthen our likelihood of success.