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      Parallel alterations in the timing of ovarian ecdysone receptor and ultraspiracle expression characterize the independent evolution of larval reproduction in two species of gall midges (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae).

      Development Genes and Evolution

      Animals, Cell Differentiation, DNA-Binding Proteins, metabolism, Diptera, classification, genetics, growth & development, physiology, Drosophila Proteins, Female, Food, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Immunohistochemistry, Larva, cytology, Metamorphosis, Biological, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Ovary, Phylogeny, Pupa, Receptors, Steroid, Reproduction, Time Factors, Transcription Factors

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          Although most insects reproduce in the adult stage, facultative larval or pupal reproduction (paedogenesis) has evolved at least six times independently in insects, twice in gall midges of the family Cecidomyiidae (Diptera). Paedogenesis in gall midges involves the precocious growth and differentiation of the ovary in an otherwise larval form. We have previously shown that the timing of expression of the Ecdysone Receptor (EcR) and Ultraspiracle (USP), the two proteins that constitute the functional receptor for the steroid hormone 20-hydroxyecdysone, regulates the timing and progression of ovarian differentiation in Drosophila melanogaster (Diptera: Drosophilidae). Here we test the hypothesis that precocious activation of EcR and USP in the ovaries of paedogenetic gall midges allows for precocious ovarian differentiation. Using monoclonal antibodies directed against insect EcR and USP proteins, we first show that when these gall midges are reared under conditions that promote typical, metamorphic development, up- regulation of EcR and USP occurs in the final larval stage. By contrast, in the paedogenetic life cycle, EcR and USP are up-regulated early in the first larval stage. A similar pattern is seen for two independently-evolved paedogenetic gall midges, Heteropeza pygmaea and Mycophila speyeri. We discuss our results in the context of developmental constraints on the evolution of paedogenesis in dipteran insects.

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