Analysis of nubbin expression patterns in insects

Evol Dev. Sep-Oct 2004;6(5):310-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-142X.2004.04039.x.


Previous studies have shown that the gene nubbin (nub) exhibits large differences in expression patterns between major groups of arthropods. This led us to hypothesize that nub may have evolved roles that are unique to particular arthropod lineages. However, in insects, nub has been studied only in Drosophila. To further explore its role in insects in general, we analyzed nub expression patterns in three hemimetabolous insect groups: zygentomans (Thermobia domestica, firebrat), dyctiopterans (Periplaneta americana, cockroach), and hemipterans (Oncopeltus fasciatus, milkweed bug). We discovered three major findings. First, observed nub patterns in the ventral central nervous system ectoderm represent a synapomorphy (shared derived feature) that is not present in other arthropods. Furthermore, each of the analyzed insects exhibits a species-specific nub expression in the central nervous system. Second, recruitment of nub for a role in leg segmentation occurred early during insect evolution. Subsequently, in some insect lineages (cockroaches and flies), this original role was expanded to include joints between all the leg segments. Third, the nub expression in the head region shows a coordinated change in association with particular mouthpart morphology. This suggests that nub has also gained an important role in the morphological diversification of insect mouthparts. Overall, the obtained data reveal an extraordinary dynamic and diverse pattern of nub evolution that has not been observed previously for other developmental genes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Cluster Analysis
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Insecta / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Morphogenesis
  • Mouth / metabolism
  • POU Domain Factors
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity
  • Spiders / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • POU Domain Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • nub protein, Drosophila