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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 21;101(51):17611-5. Epub 2004 Dec 9.

The analysis of large-scale gene expression correlated to the phase changes of the migratory locust.

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  • 1National Laboratory of Integrated Management of Insect Pests and Rodents, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100080, China.


The migratory locust is one of the most notorious agricultural pests that undergo a well known reversible, density-dependent phase transition from the solitary to the gregarious. To demonstrate the underlying molecular mechanisms of the phase change, we generated 76,012 ESTs from the whole body and dissected organs in the two phases. Comparing 12,161 unigene clusters, we identified 532 genes as phase-related (P < 0.01). Comprehensive assessment of the phase-related expression revealed that, whereas most of the genes in various categories from hind legs and the midgut are down-regulated in the gregarious phase, several gene classes in the head are impressively up-regulated, including those with peptidase, receptor, and oxygen-binding activities and those related to development, cell growth, and responses to external stimuli. Among them, a superfamily of proteins, the JHPH super-family, which includes juvenile hormone-binding protein, hexamerins, prophenoloxidase, and hemocyanins, were highly expressed in the heads of the gregarious hoppers and hind legs of the solitary hoppers. Quantitative PCR experiments confirmed in part the EST results. These differentially regulated genes have strong functional implications that numerous molecular activities are involved in phase plasticity. This study provides ample molecular markers and genomic information on hemimetabolous insects and insights into the genetic and molecular mechanisms of phase changes in locusts.

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