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Dev Neurobiol. 2008 Nov;68(13):1487-502. doi: 10.1002/dneu.20669.

Metamorphosis and adult development of the mushroom bodies of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum.

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Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, USA.


The insect mushroom bodies play important roles in a number of higher processing functions such as sensory integration, higher level olfactory processing, and spatial and associative learning and memory. These functions have been established through studies in a handful of tractable model systems, of which only the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been readily amenable to genetic manipulations. The red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum has a sequenced genome and has been subject to the development of molecular tools for the ready manipulation of gene expression; however, little is known about the development and organization of the mushroom bodies of this insect. The present account bridges this gap by demonstrating that the organization of the Tribolium mushroom bodies is strikingly like that of the fruit fly, with the significant exception that the timeline of neurogenesis is shifted so that the last population of Kenyon cells is born entirely after adult eclosion. Tribolium Kenyon cells are generated by two large neuroblasts per hemisphere and segregate into an early-born delta lobe subpopulation followed by clear homologs of the Drosophila gamma, alpha'/beta' and alpha/beta lobe subpopulations, with the larval-born cohorts undergoing dendritic reorganization during metamorphosis. BrdU labeling and immunohistochemical staining also reveal that a proportion of individual Tribolium have variable numbers of mushroom body neuroblasts. If heritable, this variation represents a unique opportunity for further studies of the genetic control of brain region size through the control of neuroblast number and cell cycle dynamics.

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