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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 21;6(3):e17274. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017274.

Transcriptome analysis of the desert locust central nervous system: production and annotation of a Schistocerca gregaria EST database.

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Department of Animal Physiology and Neurobiology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) displays a fascinating type of phenotypic plasticity, designated as 'phase polyphenism'. Depending on environmental conditions, one genome can be translated into two highly divergent phenotypes, termed the solitarious and gregarious (swarming) phase. Although many of the underlying molecular events remain elusive, the central nervous system (CNS) is expected to play a crucial role in the phase transition process. Locusts have also proven to be interesting model organisms in a physiological and neurobiological research context. However, molecular studies in locusts are hampered by the fact that genome/transcriptome sequence information available for this branch of insects is still limited.


We have generated 34,672 raw expressed sequence tags (EST) from the CNS of desert locusts in both phases. These ESTs were assembled in 12,709 unique transcript sequences and nearly 4,000 sequences were functionally annotated. Moreover, the obtained S. gregaria EST information is highly complementary to the existing orthopteran transcriptomic data. Since many novel transcripts encode neuronal signaling and signal transduction components, this paper includes an overview of these sequences. Furthermore, several transcripts being differentially represented in solitarious and gregarious locusts were retrieved from this EST database. The findings highlight the involvement of the CNS in the phase transition process and indicate that this novel annotated database may also add to the emerging knowledge of concomitant neuronal signaling and neuroplasticity events.


In summary, we met the need for novel sequence data from desert locust CNS. To our knowledge, we hereby also present the first insect EST database that is derived from the complete CNS. The obtained S. gregaria EST data constitute an important new source of information that will be instrumental in further unraveling the molecular principles of phase polyphenism, in further establishing locusts as valuable research model organisms and in molecular evolutionary and comparative entomology.

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