Background: Given its sequenced genome and efficient systemic RNA interference response, the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum is a model organism well suited for reverse genetics. Even so, there is a pressing need for forward genetic analysis to escape the bias inherent in candidate gene approaches.
Results: To produce easy-to-maintain insertional mutations and to obtain fluorescent marker lines to aid phenotypic analysis, we undertook a large-scale transposon mutagenesis screen. In this screen, we produced more than 6,500 new piggyBac insertions. Of these, 421 proved to be recessive lethal, 75 were semi-lethal, and eight indicated recessive sterility, while 505 showed new enhancer-trap patterns. Insertion junctions were determined for 403 lines and often appeared to be located within transcription units. Insertion sites appeared to be randomly distributed throughout the genome, with the exception of a preference for reinsertion near the donor site.
Conclusion: A large collection of enhancer-trap and embryonic lethal beetle lines has been made available to the research community and will foster investigations into diverse fields of insect biology, pest control, and evolution. Because the genetic elements used in this screen are species-nonspecific, and because the crossing scheme does not depend on balancer chromosomes, the methods presented herein should be broadly applicable for many insect species.