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PLoS One. 2014 Jul 31;9(7):e103967. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103967. eCollection 2014.

Visualizing late insect embryogenesis: extraembryonic and mesodermal enhancer trap expression in the beetle Tribolium castaneum.

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Institute for Developmental Biology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


The beetle Tribolium castaneum has increasingly become a powerful model for comparative research on insect development. One recent resource is a collection of piggyBac transposon-based enhancer trap lines. Here, we provide a detailed analysis of three selected lines and demonstrate their value for investigations in the second half of embryogenesis, which has thus far lagged behind research on early stages. Two lines, G12424 and KT650, show enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) expression throughout the extraembryonic serosal tissue and in a few discrete embryonic domains. Intriguingly, both lines show for the first time a degree of regionalization within the mature serosa. However, their expression profiles illuminate distinct aspects of serosal biology: G12424 tracks the tissue's rapid maturation while KT650 expression likely reflects ongoing physiological processes. The third line, G04609, is stably expressed in mesodermal domains, including segmental muscles and the heart. Genomic mapping followed by in situ hybridization for genes near to the G04609 insertion site suggests that the transposon has trapped enhancer information for the Tribolium orthologue of midline (Tc-mid). Altogether, our analyses provide the first live imaging, long-term characterizations of enhancer traps from this collection. We show that EGFP expression is readily detected, including in heterozygote crosses that permit the simultaneous visualization of multiple tissue types. The tissue specificity provides live, endogenous marker gene expression at key developmental stages that are inaccessible for whole mount staining. Furthermore, the nonlocalized EGFP in these lines illuminates both the nucleus and cytoplasm, providing cellular resolution for morphogenesis research on processes such as dorsal closure and heart formation. In future work, identification of regulatory regions driving these enhancer traps will deepen our understanding of late developmental control, including in the extraembryonic domain, which is a hallmark of insect development but which is not yet well understood.

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