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Dev Biol. 2009 Sep 15;333(2):297-311. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.06.036. Epub 2009 Jul 4.

Late extraembryonic morphogenesis and its zen(RNAi)-induced failure in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus.

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University Museum of Zoology, Department of Zoology, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK; Institute for Developmental Biology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


Many insects undergo katatrepsis, essential reorganization by the extraembryonic membranes that repositions the embryo. Knockdown of the zen gene by RNA interference (RNAi) prevents katatrepsis in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus. However, the precise morphogenetic defect has been uncertain, and katatrepsis itself has not been characterized in detail. The dynamics of wild type and zen(RNAi) eggs were analyzed from time-lapse movies, supplemented by analysis of fixed specimens. These investigations identify three zen(RNAi) defects. First, a reduced degree of tissue contraction implies a role for zen in baseline compression prior to katatrepsis. Subsequently, a characteristic 'bouncing' activity commences, leading to the initiation of katatrepsis in wild type eggs. The second zen(RNAi) defect is a delay in this activity, suggesting that a temporal window of opportunity is missed after zen knockdown. Ultimately, the extraembryonic membranes fail to rupture in zen(RNAi) eggs: the third defect. Nevertheless, the outer serosal membrane manages to contract, albeit in an aberrant fashion with additional phenotypic consequences for the embryo. These data identify a novel epithelial morphogenetic event - rupture of the 'serosal window' structure - as the ultimate site of defect. Overall, Oncopeltus zen seems to have a role in coordinating a number of pre-katatreptic events during mid embryogenesis.

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