Genome of the webworm Hyphantria cunea unveils genetic adaptations supporting its rapid invasion and spread.
Background: The fall webworm Hyphantria cunea is an invasive and polyphagous defoliator pest that feeds on nearly any type of deciduous tree worldwide. The silk web of H. cunea aids its aggregating behavior, provides thermal regulation and is regarded as one of causes for its rapid spread. In addition, both chemosensory and detoxification genes are vital for host adaptation in insects. Results: Here, a high-quality genome of H. cunea was obtained. Silk-web-related genes were identified from the genome, and successful silencing of the silk protein gene HcunFib-H resulted in a significant decrease in silk web shelter production. The CAFE analysis showed that some chemosensory and detoxification gene families, such as CSPs, CCEs, GSTs and UGTs, were expanded. A transcriptome analysis using the newly sequenced H. cunea genome showed that most chemosensory genes were specifically expressed in the antennae, while most detoxification genes were highly expressed during the feeding peak. Moreover, we found that many nutrient-related genes and one detoxification gene, HcunP450 (CYP306A1), were under significant positive selection, suggesting a crucial role of these genes in host adaptation in H. cunea. At the metagenomic level, several microbial communities in H. cunea gut and their metabolic pathways might be beneficial to H. cunea for nutrient metabolism and detoxification, and might also contribute to its host adaptation. Conclusions: These findings explain the host and environmental adaptations of H. cunea at the genetic level and provide partial evidence for the cause of its rapid invasion and potential gene targets for innovative pest management strategies.