Broad-complex functions in postembryonic development of the cockroach Blattella germanica shed new light on the evolution of insect metamorphosis

Jia-Hsin Huang, Jesus Lozano, Xavier Belles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


BACKGROUND: Insect metamorphosis proceeds in two modes: hemimetaboly, gradual change along the life cycle; and holometaboly, abrupt change from larvae to adult mediated by a pupal stage. Both are regulated by 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), which promotes molts, and juvenile hormone (JH), which represses adult morphogenesis. Expression of Broad-complex (BR-C) is induced by 20E and modulated by JH. In holometabolous species, like Drosophila melanogaster, BR-C expression is inhibited by JH in young larvae and enhanced in mature larvae, when JH declines and BR-C expression specifies the pupal stage.

METHODS: Using Blattella germanica as a basal hemimetabolous model, we determined the patterns of expression of BR-C mRNAs using quantitative RT-PCR, and we studied the functions of BR-C factors using RNA interference approaches.

RESULTS: We found that BR-C expression is enhanced by JH and correlates with JH hemolymph concentration. BR-C factors appear to be involved in cell division and wing pad growth, as well as wing vein patterning.

CONCLUSIONS: In B. germanica, expression of BR-C is enhanced by JH, and BR-C factors appear to promote wing growth to reach the right size, form and patterning, which contrast with the endocrine regulation and complex functions observed in holometabolous species.

GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: Our results shed new light to the evolution from hemimetaboly to holometaboly regarding BR-C, whose regulation and functions were affected by two innovations: 1) a shift in JH action on BR-C expression during young stages, from stimulatory to inhibitory, and 2) an expansion of functions, from regulating wing development, to determining pupal morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2178-87
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Blattellidae
  • Ecdysterone
  • Hemolymph
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • Larva
  • Metamorphosis, Biological

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