Germ-plasm specification and germline development in the parthenogenetic pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum: Vasa and Nanos as markers

Int J Dev Biol. 2006;50(4):413-21. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.052100cc.


The germarium, oocytes and embryos of the parthenogenetic viviparous pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum are contained within a single ovariole. This species provides an excellent model for studying how maternally-inherited germ plasm is specified and how it is transferred to primordial germ cells. Previous studies have shown that germ cells are first segregated at the embryonic posterior after formation of the blastoderm. We used two cross-reacting antibodies against the conserved germline markers Vasa and Nanos, which specifically identified these presumptive germ cells, to investigate whether germ cells were determined during early development. We observed randomly-distributed weak expression of Vasa signals in the developing oocyte but no localization in the oocyte segregated from the germarium. Localized Vasa was not apparent until it was detected at the posterior in the embryo undergoing the second nuclear division. Nanos, on the other hand, was localized to a nuage-like structure surrounding the nucleus in the developing and segregated oocytes. At the beginning of the oocyte maturation division, Nanos localization shifted to the posterior and could be identified in successive stages until it was incorporated into the germ cells. Taken together, our results suggest that germ plasm is specified in the developing oocyte and that Nanos is an earlier germline marker than Vasa. Germ cells stained for Vasa remained at a dorsal location in the egg during mid-development and then were guided into abdominal segments A1 to A6 during germ-band retraction. We infer that germ cells coalesce with segmented gonadal mesoderm during this period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aphids / embryology*
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Markers
  • Insect Proteins
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Oogenesis / physiology*
  • Parthenogenesis / physiology*
  • RNA Helicases / genetics
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Genetic Markers
  • Insect Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • nos protein, Drosophila
  • vas protein, Drosophila
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases
  • RNA Helicases