The DNA of Life at its Limits
Microscopic slide image of the eriophyoid mite Aculops lycopersici, a global pest on tomato. The genome of A. lycopersici was sequenced and revealed mechanisms that underlie metazoan genome reduction. Scale bar represents 0.05 mm. Picture: Jan van Arkel.
Scientists have unraveled the complete genome of the tomato russet mite, which is considered one of the smallest animals on our planet and known as a destructive agricultural pest. The genome is the smallest reported to date for an arthropod and offers intriguing new insights into the organization of the tiniest lifeforms on Earth. The international consortium of European and American researchers, including UvA biologist Merijn Kant, now published their findings in the scientific journal eLife.
A tiny animal living in a huge world
The tomato russet mite (Aculops lycopersici) is a free-living herbivore that has the size of a human egg cell. In addition to miniscule proportions, this worm-like mite has a highly derived morphology with only two pairs of legs, as opposed to the four pairs of most other adult arachnids. Though the mite’s small size restricts it to feeding on the nutrient-poor upper cell layers of plants, it nevertheless possesses the notable ability to block the natural resistance of its host, on which it can proliferate rapidly and reach enormous population sizes. Due to its minute size, the tomato russet mite is often overlooked by growers and is now a major global pest on tomato. The genomic underpinnings of this mite’s tiny size, derived morphology, and ability to grow on tomato plants that are toxic to many herbivores has until now remained unknown.
The Potential of Antimicrobial Peptides as an Antiviral Therapy against COVID-19
COVID-19 is currently considered as a life-threatening pandemic viral infection. Finding an antiviral drug or a vaccine is the only route for humans’ survival against it. To date, no specific antiviral treatment has been confirmed. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have been widely regarded as a promising solution to combat harmful microorganisms. They are biologically active molecules produced by different organisms as an essential component of their innate immune response against invading pathogens. Lactoferrin (LF), one of the AMPs, is an iron-binding glycoprotein that is present in several mucosal secretions.