Insects have evolved a large variety of specialized feeding strategies, with a corresponding variability in mouthpart morphology. We have, however, little understanding of the developmental mechanisms that underlie this diversity. Until recently it was difficult to perform any analysis of gene function outside of the genetic model insects Drosophila melanogaster and Tribolium castaneum. In this paper, we report the use of dsRNA-mediated interference (RNAi) to dissect gene function in the development of the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus, which has specialized suctorial mouthparts. The Hox genes Deformed (Dfd), proboscipedia (pb) and Sex combs reduced (Scr) have previously been shown to be expressed in the gnathal appendages of this species. Strikingly, the milkweed bug was found to have an unusual expression pattern of pb. Here, by analyzing single and combination RNAi depletions, we find that Dfd, pb and Scr are used in the milkweed bug to specify the identity of the mouthparts. The exact roles of the genes, however, are different from what is known in the two genetic model insects. The maxillary appendages in the bug are determined by the activities of the genes Dfd and Scr, rather than Dfd and pb as in the fly and beetle. The mandibular appendages are specified by Dfd, but their unique morphology in Oncopeltus suggests that Dfd's target genes are different. As in flies and beetles, the labium is specified by the combined activities of pb and Scr, but again, the function of pb appears to be different. Additionally, the regulatory control of pb by the other two genes seems to be different in the bug than in either of the other species. These novelties in Hox function, expression pattern and regulatory relationships may have been important for the evolution of the unique Hemipteran head
RNAi analysis of Deformed, proboscipedia and Sex combs reduced in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus: novel roles for Hox genes in the hemipteran head
Hughes, C., & Kaufman, TC. (2000). RNAi analysis of Deformed, proboscipedia and Sex combs reduced in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus: novel roles for Hox genes in the hemipteran head. Development (Cambridge), 127(17), 3683-3694.