Accessing the monarch genome is essential for moving the clockwork, navigation and migration issues into contemporary biology. Such access is necessary for the monarch butterfly to become a model organism to study circadian clock and migration mechanisms.
In collaboration with Dr. Scot Wolfe in the Program in Gene Function & Expression, we have developed a novel gene targeting approach that uses a zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) strategy in monarchs to define the essential nature of CRY2 for clockwork function in lepidopterans (Merlin et al., 2012). Targeted mutagenesis of cry2 indeed resulted in the in vivo disruption of circadian behavior and the molecular clock mechanism. The ZFN strategy is a powerful tool for targeting additional clock genes in monarchs. The method can also be used to knock-in reporters into clock gene loci.
An artificial diet for consistently rearing monarchs from egg to adults is essential for the utilization of genetic approaches. We need to be able to maintain monarch "lines" in the laboratory. Such a diet has recently been established by Orley (Chip) Taylor at Monarch Watch.