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Evolution of a Novel Appendage Ground Plan in Water Striders Is Driven by Changes in the Hox Gene
 

Summary: Evolution of a Novel Appendage Ground Plan in Water
Striders Is Driven by Changes in the Hox Gene
Ultrabithorax
Abderrahman Khila1,2
, Ehab Abouheif1
, Locke Rowe2
*
1 Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Abstract
Water striders, a group of semi-aquatic bugs adapted to life on the water surface, have evolved mid-legs (L2) that are long
relative to their hind-legs (L3). This novel appendage ground plan is a derived feature among insects, where L2 function as
oars and L3 as rudders. The Hox gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) is known to increase appendage size in a variety of insects. Using
gene expression and RNAi analysis, we discovered that Ubx is expressed in both L2 and L3, but Ubx functions to elongate L2
and to shorten L3 in the water strider Gerris buenoi. Therefore, within hemimetabolous insects, Ubx has evolved a new
expression domain but maintained its ancestral elongating function in L2, whereas Ubx has maintained its ancestral
expression domain but evolved a new shortening function in L3. These changes in Ubx expression and function may have
been a key event in the evolution of the distinct appendage ground plan in water striders.
Citation: Khila A, Abouheif E, Rowe L (2009) Evolution of a Novel Appendage Ground Plan in Water Striders Is Driven by Changes in the Hox Gene
Ultrabithorax. PLoS Genet 5(7): e1000583. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000583
Editor: David L. Stern, Princeton University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, United States of America

  

Source: Abouheif, Ehab - Department of Biology, McGill University
Rowe, Locke - Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

 

Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology