Most of what we know of insect gene function is based on research on the fly Drosophila melanogaster. For a long time, this was the only insect model with a sequenced genome and with the possibility of interfering with gene function. Another crucial advantage of this model system was the possibility to screen genome wide for genes involved in a certain process. With the advent of next generation sequencing, RNAi based reverse genetics and genome editing other model systems have become amenable to deep functional gene studies.
The red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum is spearheading the development of alternative model systems. We have contributed by developing misexpression systems, transgenic imaging lines and enhancer trap lines. Importantly, we have established the resources for genome wide RNAi screening in the beetle (see more information on the iBeetle project). Recently, we have succeeded in restricting the RNAi response to certain tissues or developmental time windows.
All these tools make Tribolium the second best model system for functional genetics in arthropods and an extremely efficient platform for genome wide screening.
Further, we want to foster the development of the field by our Göttingen SPIRIT Summer School "Functional genetics in Zoology", which takes place every two years.