Growth zone segmentation in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus sheds light on the evolution of insect segmentation.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:One of the best studied developmental processes is the Drosophila segmentation cascade. However, this cascade is generally considered to be highly derived and unusual, with segments being patterned simultaneously, rather than the ancestral sequential segmentation mode. We present a detailed analysis of the segmentation cascade of the milkweed bug Oncopletus fasciatus, an insect with a more primitive segmentation mode, as a comparison to Drosophila, with the aim of reconstructing the evolution of insect segmentation modes. RESULTS:We document the expression of 12 genes, representing different phases in the segmentation process. Using double staining we reconstruct the spatio-temporal relationships among these genes. We then show knock-down phenotypes of representative genes in order to uncover their roles and position in the cascade. CONCLUSIONS:We conclude that sequential segmentation in the Oncopeltus germband includes three slightly overlapping phases: Primary pair-rule genes generate the first segmental gene expression in the anterior growth zone. This pattern is carried anteriorly by a series of secondary pair-rule genes, expressed in the transition between the growth zone and the segmented germband. Segment polarity genes are expressed in the segmented germband with conserved relationships. Unlike most holometabolous insects, this process generates a single-segment periodicity, and does not have a double-segment pattern at any stage. We suggest that the evolutionary transition to double-segment patterning lies in mutually exclusive expression patterns of secondary pair-rule genes. The fact that many aspects of the putative Oncopeltus segmentation network are similar to those of Drosophila, is consistent with a simple transition between sequential and simultaneous segmentation.
Project description:In Drosophila, all segments form in the blastoderm where morphogen gradients spanning the entire anterior-posterior axis of the embryo provide positional information. However, in the beetle Tribolium castaneum and most other arthropods, a number of anterior segments form in the blastoderm, and the remaining segments form sequentially from a posterior growth zone during germband elongation. Recently, the cyclic nature of the pair-rule gene Tc-odd-skipped was demonstrated in the growth zone of Tribolium, indicating that a vertebrate-like segmentation clock is employed in the germband stage of its development. This suggests that two mechanisms might function in the same organism: a Drosophila-like mechanism in the blastoderm, and a vertebrate-like mechanism in the germband. Here, we show that segmentation at both blastoderm and germband stages of Tribolium is based on a segmentation clock. Specifically, we show that the Tribolium primary pair-rule gene, Tc-even-skipped (Tc-eve), is expressed in waves propagating from the posterior pole and progressively slowing until they freeze into stripes; such dynamics are a hallmark of clock-based segmentation. Phase shifts between Tc-eve transcripts and protein confirm that these waves are due to expression dynamics. Moreover, by tracking cells in live embryos and by analyzing mitotic profiles, we found that neither cell movement nor oriented cell division could explain the observed wave dynamics of Tc-eve. These results pose intriguing evolutionary questions, as Drosophila and Tribolium segment their blastoderms using the same genes but different mechanisms.
Project description:Long-germ insects, such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, pattern their segments simultaneously, whereas short-germ insects, such as the beetle Tribolium castaneum, pattern their segments sequentially, from anterior to posterior. While the two modes of segmentation at first appear quite distinct, much of this difference might simply reflect developmental heterochrony. We now show here that, in both Drosophila and Tribolium, segment patterning occurs within a common framework of sequential Caudal, Dichaete, and Odd-paired expression. In Drosophila these transcription factors are expressed like simple timers within the blastoderm, while in Tribolium they form wavefronts that sweep from anterior to posterior across the germband. In Drosophila, all three are known to regulate pair-rule gene expression and influence the temporal progression of segmentation. We propose that these regulatory roles are conserved in short-germ embryos, and that therefore the changing expression profiles of these genes across insects provide a mechanistic explanation for observed differences in the timing of segmentation. In support of this hypothesis we demonstrate that Odd-paired is essential for segmentation in Tribolium, contrary to previous reports.
Project description:Genetic studies of the fruit fly Drosophila have revealed a hierarchy of segmentation genes (maternal, gap, pair-rule and HOX) that subdivide the syncytial blastoderm into sequentially finer-scale coordinates. Within this hierarchy, the pair-rule genes translate gradients of information into periodic stripes of expression. How pair-rule genes function during the progressive mode of segmentation seen in short and intermediate-germ insects is an ongoing question. Here we report that the nuclear receptor Of'E75A is expressed with double segment periodicity in the head and thorax. In the abdomen, Of'E75A is expressed in a unique pattern during posterior elongation, and briefly resembles a sequence that is typical of pair-rule genes. Depletion of Of'E75A mRNA caused loss of a subset of odd-numbered parasegments, as well as parasegment 6. Because these parasegments straddle segment boundaries, we observe fusions between adjacent segments. Finally, expression of Of'E75A in the blastoderm requires even-skipped, which is a gap gene in Oncopeltus. These data show that the function of Of'E75A during embryogenesis shares many properties with canonical pair-rule genes in other insects. They further suggest that parasegment specification may occur through irregular and episodic pair-rule-like activity.
Project description:Drosophila segmentation is a well-established paradigm for developmental pattern formation. However, the later stages of segment patterning, regulated by the "pair-rule" genes, are still not well understood at the system level. Building on established genetic interactions, I construct a logical model of the Drosophila pair-rule system that takes into account the demonstrated stage-specific architecture of the pair-rule gene network. Simulation of this model can accurately recapitulate the observed spatiotemporal expression of the pair-rule genes, but only when the system is provided with dynamic "gap" inputs. This result suggests that dynamic shifts of pair-rule stripes are essential for segment patterning in the trunk and provides a functional role for observed posterior-to-anterior gap domain shifts that occur during cellularisation. The model also suggests revised patterning mechanisms for the parasegment boundaries and explains the aetiology of the even-skipped null mutant phenotype. Strikingly, a slightly modified version of the model is able to pattern segments in either simultaneous or sequential modes, depending only on initial conditions. This suggests that fundamentally similar mechanisms may underlie segmentation in short-germ and long-germ arthropods.
Project description:Background:Much has been learned about basic biology from studies of insect model systems. The pre-eminent insect model system, Drosophila melanogaster, is a holometabolous insect with a derived mode of segment formation. While additional insect models have been pioneered in recent years, most of these fall within holometabolous lineages. In contrast, hemimetabolous insects have garnered less attention, although they include agricultural pests, vectors of human disease, and present numerous evolutionary novelties in form and function. The milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus (order: Hemiptera)-close outgroup to holometabolous insects-is an emerging model system. However, comparative studies within this order are limited as many phytophagous hemipterans are difficult to stably maintain in the lab due to their reliance on fresh plants, deposition of eggs within plant material, and long development time from embryo to adult. Results:Here we present the harlequin bug, Murgantia histrionica, as a new hemipteran model species. Murgantia-a member of the stink bug family Pentatomidae which shares a common ancestor with Oncopeltus?~?200 mya-is easy to rear in the lab, produces a large number of eggs, and is amenable to molecular genetic techniques. We use Murgantia to ask whether Pair-Rule Genes (PRGs) are deployed in ways similar to holometabolous insects or to Oncopeltus. Specifically, PRGs even-skipped, odd-skipped, paired and sloppy-paired are initially expressed in PR-stripes in Drosophila and a number of holometabolous insects but in segmental-stripes in Oncopeltus. We found that these genes are likewise expressed in segmental-stripes in Murgantia, while runt displays partial PR-character in both species. Also like Oncopeltus, E75A is expressed in a clear PR-pattern in blastoderm- and germband-stage Murgantia embryos, although it plays no role in segmentation in Drosophila. Thus, genes diagnostic of the split between holometabolous insects and Oncopeltus are expressed in an Oncopeltus-like fashion during Murgantia development. Conclusions:The similarity in gene expression between Murgantia and Oncopeltus suggests that Oncopeltus is not a sole outlier species in failing to utilize orthologs of Drosophila PRGs for PR-patterning. Rather, strategies deployed for PR-patterning, including the use of E75A in the PRG-network, are likely conserved within Hemiptera, and possibly more broadly among hemimetabolous insects.
Project description:We describe the dynamic process of abdominal segment generation in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus We present detailed morphological measurements of the growing germband throughout segmentation. Our data are complemented by cell division profiles and expression patterns of key genes, including invected and even-skipped as markers for different stages of segment formation. We describe morphological and mechanistic changes in the growth zone and in nascent segments during the generation of individual segments and throughout segmentation, and examine the relative contribution of newly formed versus existing tissue to segment formation. Although abdominal segment addition is primarily generated through the rearrangement of a pool of undifferentiated cells, there is nonetheless proliferation in the posterior. By correlating proliferation with gene expression in the growth zone, we propose a model for growth zone dynamics during segmentation in which the growth zone is functionally subdivided into two distinct regions: a posterior region devoted to a slow rate of growth among undifferentiated cells, and an anterior region in which segmental differentiation is initiated and proliferation inhibited.
Project description:Segments are formed simultaneously in the blastoderm of the fly Drosophila melanogaster through a hierarchical cascade of interacting transcription factors. Conversely, in many insects and in all non-insect arthropods most segments are formed sequentially from the posterior. We have looked at segmentation in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus. Posterior segments are formed sequentially, through what is probably the ancestral arthropod mechanism. Formation of anterior segments bears many similarities to the Drosophila segmentation mode. These segments appear nearly simultaneously in the blastoderm, via a segmentation cascade that involves orthologues of Drosophila gap genes working through a functionally similar mechanism. We suggest that simultaneous blastoderm segmentation evolved at or close to the origin of holometabolous insects, and formed the basis for the evolution of the segmentation mode seen in Drosophila We discuss the changes in segmentation mechanisms throughout insect evolution, and suggest that the appearance of simultaneous segmentation as a novel feature of holometabolous insects may have contributed to the phenomenal success of this group.
Project description:Most segmented animals add segments sequentially as the animal grows. In vertebrates, segment patterning depends on oscillations of gene expression coordinated as travelling waves in the posterior, unsegmented mesoderm. Recently, waves of segmentation gene expression have been clearly documented in insects. However, it remains unclear whether cyclic gene activity is widespread across arthropods, and possibly ancestral among segmented animals. Previous studies have suggested that a segmentation oscillator may exist in Strigamia, an arthropod only distantly related to insects, but further evidence is needed to document this.Using the genes even skipped and Delta as representative of genes involved in segment patterning in insects and in vertebrates, respectively, we have carried out a detailed analysis of the spatio-temporal dynamics of gene expression throughout the process of segment patterning in Strigamia. We show that a segmentation clock is involved in segment formation: most segments are generated by cycles of dynamic gene activity that generate a pattern of double segment periodicity, which is only later resolved to the definitive single segment pattern. However, not all segments are generated by this process. The most posterior segments are added individually from a localized sub-terminal area of the embryo, without prior pair-rule patterning.Our data suggest that dynamic patterning of gene expression may be widespread among the arthropods, but that a single network of segmentation genes can generate either oscillatory behavior at pair-rule periodicity or direct single segment patterning, at different stages of embryogenesis.
Project description:A set of pair-rule (PR) segmentation genes (PRGs) promotes the formation of alternate body segments in Drosophila melanogaster Whereas Drosophila embryos are long-germ, with segments specified more or less simultaneously, most insects add segments sequentially as the germband elongates. The hide beetle Dermestes maculatus represents an intermediate between short- and long-germ development, ideal for comparative study of PRGs. We show that eight of nine Drosophila PRG orthologs are expressed in stripes in Dermestes Functional results parse these genes into three groups: Dmac-eve, -odd and -run play roles in both germband elongation and PR patterning; Dmac-slp and -prd function exclusively as complementary, classic PRGs, supporting functional decoupling of elongation and segment formation; and orthologs of ftz, ftz-f1, h and opa show more variable function in Dermestes and other species. While extensive cell death generally prefigured Dermestes PRG RNAi-mediated cuticle defects, an organized region with high mitotic activity near the margin of the segment addition zone is likely to have contributed to truncation of eveRNAi embryos. Our results suggest general conservation of clock-like regulation of PR stripe addition in sequentially segmenting species while highlighting regulatory rewiring involving a subset of PRG orthologs.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Segmentation is a hallmark of the arthropods; most knowledge about the molecular basis of arthropod segmentation comes from work on the fly Drosophila melanogaster. In this species a hierarchic cascade of segmentation genes subdivides the blastoderm stepwise into single segment wide regions. However, segmentation in the fly is a derived feature since all segments form virtually simultaneously. Conversely, in the vast majority of arthropods the posterior segments form one at a time from a posterior pre-segmental zone. The pair rule genes (PRGs) comprise an important level of the Drosophila segmentation gene cascade and are indeed the first genes that are expressed in typical transverse stripes in the early embryo. Information on expression and function of PRGs outside the insects, however, is scarce. RESULTS:Here we present the expression of the pair rule gene orthologs in the pill millipede Glomeris marginata (Myriapoda: Diplopoda). We find evidence that these genes are involved in segmentation and that components of the hierarchic interaction of the gene network as found in insects may be conserved. We further provide evidence that segments are formed in a single-segment periodicity rather than in pairs of two like in another myriapod, the centipede Strigamia maritima. Finally we show that decoupling of dorsal and ventral segmentation in Glomeris appears already at the level of the PRGs. CONCLUSIONS:Although the pair rule gene network is partially conserved among insects and myriapods, some aspects of PRG interaction are, as suggested by expression pattern analysis, convergent, even within the Myriapoda. Conserved expression patterns of PRGs in insects and myriapods, however, may represent ancestral features involved in segmenting the arthropod ancestor.