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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2013 Oct;43(10):982-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2013.07.005. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Transcriptional evidence for small RNA regulation of pupal diapause in the flesh fly, Sarcophaga bullata.

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Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University, 300 Aronoff Laboratory, 318 W 12th Ave., Columbus, OH, USA; Department of Ecology, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, 300 Aronoff Laboratory, 318 W 12th Ave., Columbus, OH, USA. Electronic address:


Understanding the molecular basis of diapause, a phenotypically plastic, alternative developmental pathway, is key to predicting the seasonal distribution of economically and medically important insect species. Small regulatory RNAs, including piwi-related RNAs, small-interfering RNAs, and miRNAs, represent one type of epigenetic process that can alter the phenotype of organisms independent of changes in genome sequence. We hypothesize that small RNAs regulate pupal diapause and a maternal block of diapause in the flesh fly Sarcophaga bullata. We assessed the relative abundance of eight genes related to small RNA biogenesis and function using qRT-PCR in pre-diapause and diapause stages compared to their non-diapause counterparts. Elevated mRNA expression of piwi and spindle-E, as well as argonaute2 and r2d2, in photosensitive 1st instar larvae reared in diapause-inducing conditions indicate involvement of the piwi-associated RNA and small-interfering RNA pathways, respectively, in programming the switch from direct development to a developmental pathway that includes diapause. Two genes, related to the microRNA pathway, argonaute1 and loquacious, are upregulated during pupal diapause, suggesting a role for this pathway in maintaining diapause. Substantial reduction in transcript abundance of small RNA-related genes in photosensitive 1st instar larvae from mothers with a diapause history compared to those from mothers with no diapause history also suggest a role for small RNA pathways in regulating a diapause maternal effect in S. bullata. Together, the results point to a role for small RNAs in regulating the developmental trajectory in this species.


Maternal effect; Phenotypic plasticity; miRNA; piRNAs; siRNAs

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