By Astrid Groot
In trying to understand how sexual communication signals and responses evolve, part of our research focuses on identifying the genetic changes underlying the variation in signals and responses, both within and between moth species. Through many genetic crosses and backcrosses between two moth sex pheromone strains (so-called E and Z strains) in the laboratory, we found that an intron of a gene explains most of the variation in the E and Z male responses. Since DNA-introns are not transcribed into RNA and thus not expressed, we could not come up with a functional test and were unsure of how to publish our result. At a research conference, we unexpectedly encountered a american research group who had identified the exact same genetic location, only in a very different way: they had caught males in the field by using so-called sex pheromone traps, which were baited with either the E or the Z sex pheromone lure, after which they sequenced and compared both groups of males. By combining our results, we could publish our findings in Nature Communications.
You can read the article published in Nature communications here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-23026-x
Or read the article about the unexpected encounter in the Volkskrant (in Dutch): ‘Zonder onze onverwachte ontmoeting was deze publicatie nooit gelukt’ (volkskrant.nl)