Scientists have successfully turned off the pigment gene in an ink species called Doryteuthis pealeii, making the hatchlings almost transparent.
The transgenic Doryteuthis pealeii squid (below) does not have the same spots. Photo: NPR.
Research published July 30 in the journal Current Biology demonstrates that cephalopods, including squid and octopus, can be studied using genetic tools similar to mice and fruit flies. These are species that are easy to keep in the laboratory and researchers can constantly alter their genes to learn about behaviors, diseases, and treatments,
“Cephalopods evolved large brains and had behavioral complexity,” said Joshua Rosenthal, a researcher at the Laboratory of Marine Biology at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “This provides an opportunity to compare them with humans”.
Previously, cephalopod research has been hampered by scientists who have not yet figured out how to control the genes of squid or octopus. Rosenthal and his team keep a wide variety of cephalopods from cuttlefish to dwarf octopus to learn how to grow and modify their DNA.
The team also worked with D. pealeii, a local squid in the waters around Woods Hole. They are important for neurobiologists because they carry large brain cells that are easy to study. Each summer, the research ship went to Woods Hole and collected D. pealeii. Dr. Karen Crawford of the University of Maryland, a member of the research team, studied how to take sperm and eggs from this squid and create embryos in the laboratory. Based on their experience, Crawford and his colleagues figured out how to insert genetically modified material into a fertilized egg, disabling the gene that determines the color of the squid and skin cells. The biggest challenge for them is to penetrate through the thick membrane that covers the squid embryo in the early stages.
As a result, the newly hatched squid have much less spots than the congener because the pigment gene is turned off in almost every cell. They will not be raised to maturity in the laboratory due to their large size. But there are many other species of squid and octopus, so the team is looking to apply the technology to the individuals they are keeping.
(According to NPR)