Apr. 12, 2018
Within the mega-pest lineage of heliothine moths are a number of polyphagous, highly mobile species for which the exchange of adaptive traits through hybridization would affect their properties as pests.
The recent invasion of South America by one of the most significant agricultural pests, Helicoverpa armigera, raises concerns for the formation of novel combinations of adaptive genes following hybridization with the closely related Helicoverpa zea.
To investigate the propensity for hybridization within the genus Helicoverpa, Researchers carried out whole-genome resequencing of samples from six species, focusing in particular upon H. armigera population structure and its relationship with H. zea.
They show that both H. armigera subspecies have greater genetic diversity and effective population sizes than do the other species. They find no signals for gene flow among the six species, other than between H. armigera and H. zea, with nine Brazilian individuals proving to be hybrids of those two species. Eight had largely H. armigera genomes with some introgressed DNA from H. zea scattered throughout. The ninth resembled an F1 hybrid but with stretches of homozygosity for each parental species that reflect previous hybridization.
Regions homozygous for H. armigera-derived DNA in this individual included one containing a gustatory receptor and esterase genes previously associated with host range, while another encoded a cytochrome P450 that confers insecticide resistance. The data point toward the emergence of novel hybrid ecotypes and highlight the importance of monitoring H. armigera genotypes as they spread through the Americas.