• Article

Hox gene function and interaction in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus (Hemiptera)

Studies in genetic model organisms such as Drosophila have demonstrated that the homeotic complex (Hox) genes impart segmental identity during embryogenesis. Comparative studies in a wide range of other insect taxa have shown that the Hox genes are expressed in largely conserved domains along the anterior-posterior body axis, but whether they are performing the same functions in different insects is an open question. Most of the Hox genes have been studied functionally in only a few holometabolous insects that undergo metamorphosis. Thus, it is unclear how the Hox genes are functioning in the majority of direct-developing insects and other arthropods. To address this question, we used a combination of RNAi and in situ hybridization to reveal the expression, functions, and regulatory interactions of the Hox genes in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus. Our results reveal many similarities and some interesting differences compared to Drosophila. We find that the gene Antennapedia is required for the identity of all three thoracic segments, while Ultrabithorax, abdominal-A and Abdominal-B cooperate to pattern the abdomen. The three abdominal genes exhibit posterior prevalence like in Drosophila, but apparently via some post-transcriptional mechanism. The functions of the head genes proboscipedia, Deformed, and Sex combs reduced were shown previously, and here we find that the complex temporal expression of pb in the labium is like that of other insects, but its regulatory relationship with Scr is unique. Overall, our data reveal that the evolution of insect Hox genes has included many small changes within general conservation of expression and function, and that the milkweed bug provides a useful model for understanding the roles of Hox genes in a direct-developing insect


Angelini, DR., Liu, PZ., Hughes, C., & Kaufman, TC. (2005). Hox gene function and interaction in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus (Hemiptera). Developmental Biology, 287(2), 440-455.