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Mech Dev. 2007 Mar;124(3):180-9. Epub 2006 Dec 23.

Redundant ecdysis regulatory functions of three nuclear receptor HR3 isoforms in the direct-developing insect Blattella germanica.

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Department of Molecular Biodiversity, Institut de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona (CSIC), Jordi Girona 18, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.


In hemimetabolous insects, the molecular basis of the 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E)-triggered genetic hierarchy is practically unknown. In the cockroach Blattella germanica, we had previously characterized one isoform of the ecdysone receptor, BgEcR-A, and two isoforms of its heterodimeric partner, BgRXR-S and BgRXR-L. One of the early-late genes of the 20E-triggered genetic hierarchy, is HR3. In the present paper, we report the discovery of three isoforms of HR3 in B. germanica, that were named BgHR3-A, BgHR3-B(1) and BgHR3-B(2). Expression studies in prothoracic gland, epidermis and fat body indicate that the expression of the three isoforms coincides with the peak of circulating ecdysteroids at each nymphal instar. Experiments in vitro with fat body tissue have shown that 20E induces the expression of BgHR3 isoforms, and that incubation with 20E and the protein inhibitor cycloheximide does not inhibit the induction, which indicates that the effect of 20E on BgHR3 activation is direct. This has been further confirmed by RNAi in vivo of BgEcR-A, which has shown that this nuclear receptor is required to fully activate the expression of BgHR3. RNAi has been also used to demonstrate the functions of BgHR3 in ecdysis. Nymphs with silenced BgHR3 completed the apolysis but were unable to ecdyse (they had duplicated and superimposed the mouth parts, the hypopharinge, the tracheal system and the cuticle layers). This indicates that BgHR3 is directly involved in ecdysis. Finally, RNAi of specific isoforms has showed that they are functionally redundant, at least regarding the ecdysis process.

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