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Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2010 May;74(1):52-66. doi: 10.1002/arch.20363.

The locust foraging gene.

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Department of Biology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Erratum in

  • Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2011 Apr;76(4):249-51.


Our knowledge of how genes act on the nervous system in response to the environment to generate behavioral plasticity is limited. A number of recent advancements in this area concern food-related behaviors and a specific gene family called foraging (for), which encodes a cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG). The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is notorious for its destructive feeding and long-term migratory behavior. Locust phase polyphenism is an extreme example of environmentally induced behavioral plasticity. In response to changes in population density, locusts dramatically alter their behavior, from solitary and relatively sedentary behavior to active aggregation and swarming. Very little is known about the molecular and genetic basis of this striking behavioral phenomenon. Here we initiated studies into the locust for gene by identifying, cloning, and studying expression of the gene in the locust brain. We determined the phylogenetic relationships between the locust PKG and other known PKG proteins in insects. FOR expression was found to be confined to neurons of the anterior midline of the brain, the pars intercerebralis. Our results suggest that differences in PKG enzyme activity are correlated to well-established phase-related behavioral differences. These results lay the groundwork for functional studies of the locust for gene and its possible relations to locust phase polyphenism.

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