The maternal effect genes responsible for patterning the embryo along the antero-posterior (AP) axis are broadly conserved in insects. The precise function of these maternal effect genes is the result of the localisation of their mRNA in the oocyte. The main developmental mechanisms involved have been elucidated in Drosophila melanogaster, but recent studies have shown that other insect orders often diverge in RNA localisation patterns. A recent study has shown that in the butterfly Pararge aegeria the distinction between blastodermal embryonic (i.e. germ band) and extra-embryonic tissue (i.e. serosa) is already specified in the oocyte during oogenesis in the ovariole, long before blastoderm cellularisation. To examine the extent by which a female butterfly specifies and patterns the AP axis within the region fated to be the germ band, and whether she specifies a germ plasm, we performed in situ hybridisation experiments on oocytes in P. aegeria ovarioles and on early embryos. RNA localisation of the following key maternal effect genes were investigated: caudal (cad), orthodenticle (otd), hunchback (hb) and four nanos (nos) paralogs, as well as TDRD7 a gene containing a key functional domain (OST-HTH/LOTUS) shared with oskar. TDRD7 was mainly confined to the follicle cells, whilst hb was exclusively zygotically transcribed. RNA of some of the nos paralogs, otd and cad revealed complex localisation patterns within the cortical region prefiguring the germ band (i.e. germ cortex). Rather interestingly, otd was localised within and outside the anterior of the germ cortex. Transcripts of nos-O formed a distinct granular ring in the middle of the germ cortex possibly prefiguring the region where germline stem cells form. These butterfly RNA localisation patterns are highly divergent with respect to other insects, highlighting the diverse ways in which different insect orders maternally regulate early embryogenesis of their offspring.
Carter, JGibbs, MBreuker, C
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Year of publication: 2015Date of RADAR deposit: 2016-02-05