Open Access Research article

Functional genomics of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) midguts and fat bodies

Tidiane Aw1, Karen Schlauch12, Christopher I Keeling3, Sharon Young1, Jeremy C Bearfield1, Gary J Blomquist1 and Claus Tittiger1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, 89557, USA

2 Center for Bioinformatics, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, NV, 89557, USA

3 Current address: Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11:215  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-215

Published: 30 March 2010



The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is a significant coniferous forest pest in western North America. It relies on aggregation pheromones to colonize hosts. Its three major pheromone components, trans-verbenol, exo-brevicomin, and frontalin, are thought to arise via different metabolic pathways, but the enzymes involved have not been identified or characterized. We produced ESTs from male and female midguts and associated fat bodies and used custom oligonucleotide microarrays to study gene expression patterns and thereby made preliminary identification of pheromone-biosynthetic genes.


Clones from two un-normalized cDNA libraries were directionally sequenced from the 5' end to yield 11,775 ESTs following sequence cleansing. The average read length was 550 nt. The ESTs clustered into 1,201 contigs and 2,833 singlets (4,034 tentative unique genes). The ESTs are broadly distributed among GO functional groups, suggesting they reflect a broad spectrum of the transcriptome. Among the most represented genes are representatives of sugar-digesting enzymes and members of an apparently Scolytid-specific gene family of unknown function. Custom NimbleGen 4-plex arrays representing the 4,034 tentative unique genes were queried with RNA from eleven different biological states representing larvae, pupae, and midguts and associated fat bodies of unfed or fed adults. Quantitative (Real-Time) RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) experiments confirmed that the microarray data accurately reflect expression levels in the different samples. Candidate genes encoding enzymes involved in terminal steps of biosynthetic pathways for exo-brevicomin and frontalin were tentatively identified.


These EST and microarray data are the first publicly-available functional genomics resources for this devastating forestry pest.