An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the tobacco hornworm, a caterpillar species used in many research laboratories for studies of insect biology. Professor Gary Blissard of the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, and Professor Michael Kanost of Kansas State University, initiated the study and are co-senior authors on this large international project that included 114 researchers from 50 institutions and 11 countries. The researchers have published their work in a open-access paper titled "Multifaceted Biological Insights from a Draft Genome Sequence of the Tobacco Hornworm Moth, Manduca sexta" in the journal Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (date of the online publication is August 12,2016). The scientists have made the genome sequence available to the public through the National Agricultural Library and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). "The completion of this project marks a major milestone in the study of insect biochemistry and molecular biology, as Manduca sexta is an important model insect: one that has been studied for its physiology and biochemistry for many decades," said Dr. Blissard. "This project represents years of collaborative research across the world," said Dr. Kanost. "We wanted to provide these valuable data to scientists, and our hope is that this sequenced genome will stimulate new research in molecular studies of insects." The tobacco hornworm, or Manduca sexta, develops into the Carolina sphinx moth. The name Manduca comes from the Latin word for glutton because these caterpillars eat so much. M. sexta occurs naturally in North, Central and South America and is a known pest to gardeners: It eats the leaves of tomato plants and also can be found on pepper, eggplant, and potato plants.
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