Harrison, MC, Arning, N, Kremer LPM, Ylla, G, Belles, X, Bornberg-Bauer, E, Huylmans, AK, Jongepier, E, Piulachs, M-D, Richards, S, Schal, C
Expansions of key protein families in the German cockroach explain the remarkable success of this global indoor pest
Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B, 2018

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The German cockroach, Blattella germanic, is a worldwide pest that infests buildings, including homes, restaurants and hospitals, often living in unsanitary conditions. As a disease vector and producer of allergens, this species has major health and economic impacts on humans. Factors contributing to the success of the German cockroach include its resistance to a broad range of insecticides, immunity to many pathogens and its ability, as an extreme generalist omnivore, to survive on most food sources. The recently published genome shows that B. germanica has an exceptionally high number of protein coding genes. In this study we investigate the functions of the 93 significantly expanded gene families with the aim to better understand the success of B. germanica as a major pest despite such inhospitable conditions. We find major expansions in gene families with functions related to the detoxification of insecticides and allelochemicals, defence against pathogens, digestion, sensory perception and gene regulation. These expansions have allowed B. germanica to develop multiple resistance mechanisms to insecticides and pathogens, and enable a broad, flexible diet, thus explaining its success in unsanitary conditions and under recurrent chemical control. The findings and resources presented here provide insights for better understanding molecular mechanisms that will facilitate more effective cockroach control.