Proposal for Sequencing the Genome of the Sand Flies, Lutzomyia longipalpis and Phlebotomus papatasi

Mary Ann McDowell, Frank Collins, Marcelo Ramalho-Ortigao, Jesus Valenzuela, Shaden Kamhawi, Rod Dillon, Paul Bates, Michael Lehane
Genome Center at WashU
Baylor College of Medicine

This proposal represents a collaborative effort by the international sand fly research community to initiate the first large-scale genome sequencing project of two medically important sand fly species. As important vectors of human disease, phlebotomine sand flies are of global significance to human health, transmitting protozoan, bacterial, and viral pathogens. Completed genome sequences of these medically important vectors will foster development of novel technologies to control these devastating diseases. Furthermore, phlebotomine sand fly research has served as a key model for studies concerning vector/parasite/host interactions by revealing novel mechanisms defining vector competence, propelling the field of vaccine research into promising areas, and identifying novel therapeutics for human use. This genome project will accelerate progress in these areas, as well as complement and enhance ongoing comparative genomics efforts.

Phlebotomine sand flies are members of the family Psychodidae, which includes a diverse group of vectors that vary widely in geographic distribution, ecology and the pathogens they transmit. Here we propose to sequence the genomes of two different phlebotomine sand flies, Phlebotomus papatasi and Lutzomyia longipalpis, that exhibit distinct distributions, behavior and pathogen specificity. A comparative approach will provide substantial addedvalue, both technical and scientific, and will accelerate the discovery of regulatory and biochemical pathways within this family as potential biopharmaceuticals, vaccine candidates, and targets for insecticide development. Moreover, comparative genome sequence analyses between these and other available genomes will elucidate the pathways that lead to arthropod blood-feeding and immunity, inform arthropod phylogenetic relationships and enhance our comprehension of the evolutionary mechanisms that define genome organization.