Development of the adult leg epidermis in Manduca sexta: contribution of different larval cell populations

Dev Genes Evol. 2005 Feb;215(2):78-89. doi: 10.1007/s00427-004-0458-5. Epub 2005 Jan 13.


During metamorphosis of the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta, the simple thoracic legs of the larva are remodeled into the more complex adult legs. Most of the adult leg epidermis derives from the adult primordia, small sets of epidermal cells located in specific regions of the larval leg, which proliferate rapidly in the final larval instar. In contrast, the contribution of the epidermal cells outside the primordia is unknown. In this study we have determined their contribution to the adult leg by labeling them with 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BUdR) and following their fate. Although the labeled cells diminished drastically in number, small groups of these cells persisted into the midpupal stage suggesting that they do contribute to the adult leg epidermis. We also found that during the wandering stage the adult primordia went through active proliferation and very little cell death, while the cells outside the primordia went through extensive cell death accounting for the decrease in their number. Our results indicate that two distinct cell populations exist outside the adult primordia. Most cells belong to the first population, which is larval-specific and disappears through apoptosis early in metamorphosis. The second population consists of polymorphic cells that contribute to the larval, pupal and adult leg epidermis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Epidermis / growth & development*
  • Larva / cytology
  • Lower Extremity / growth & development
  • Manduca / anatomy & histology*
  • Manduca / cytology
  • Manduca / growth & development*
  • Morphogenesis*