Simplify, simplify: Lifestyle and compact genome of the body louse provide a unique functional genomics opportunity

Barry R. Pittendrigh, May R. Berenbaum, Manfredo J. Seufferheld, Venu M. Margam, Joseph P. Strycharz, Kyong S. Yoon, Weilin Sun, Robert Reenan, Si Hyeock Lee, John M. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The body louse, with its recently sequenced genome, is now primed to serve as a powerful model organism for addressing fundamental questions relating to how insects interact with their environment. One characteristic of the body louse that facilitates this research is the size of its genome-the smallest insect genome sequenced to date. This diminutive genome must nonetheless control an organism that senses and responds to its environment, reacting to threats of corporal and genomic integrity. Additionally, the body louse transmits several important human diseases compared to its very close relative, the head louse, which does not. Therefore, these two organisms comprise an excellent model system for studying molecular mechanisms associated with vector competence. To understand more fully the development of vector/pathogen interactions, we have developed an in vitro bioassay system and determined that the body louse genome appears to contain the genes necessary for RNAi. The body louse will therefore be useful for determining the set of conditions permissive to the evolution of vector competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-191
Number of pages4
JournalCommunicative and Integrative Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Disease vector
  • Functional genomics
  • Genome size
  • Insect genomics
  • RNAi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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