TGFbeta signaling in Tribolium: vertebrate-like components in a beetle

Dev Genes Evol. 2008 Apr;218(3-4):203-13. doi: 10.1007/s00427-007-0179-7. Epub 2008 Apr 8.


The cytokines of the TGFbeta superfamily are highly conserved in evolution and elicit a diverse range of cellular responses in all metazoa. In Drosophila, the signaling pathways of the two TGFbeta subfamilies, Activins and Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs), have been well studied. To address the question of whether the findings from Drosophila are representative of insects in general, we analyzed the components of TGFbeta-signaling present in the genome of the beetle Tribolium castaneum. We were able to identify orthologs of the BMPs Decapentaplegic and Glass bottom boat, of the Activins Activinbeta and Dawdle, as well as orthologs of the less well-known ligands Myoglianin and Maverick, together with orthologs of all TGFbeta receptors and cytoplasmic signal transducers present in Drosophila. This indicates that the diversity of TGFbeta signaling components is generally well conserved between Drosophila and Tribolium. However, the genome of the beetle-and of the bee Apis mellifera-lacks an ortholog of the Drosophila BMP Screw but does contain a vertebrate-like BMP10 homolog which is not found in Drosophila. Concerning BMP inhibitors, Tribolium displays an even more vertebrate-like ensemble of components. We found two orthologs of the vertebrate DAN family, Dan and Gremlin, and show embryonic expression of a vertebrate-like BAMBI ortholog, all of which are absent in Drosophila. This suggests that Tribolium might have retained a more ancestral composition of TGFbeta signaling components and that TGFbeta signaling underwent considerable change in the Drosophila lineage. Tribolium is an excellent model to study the function of these ancestral signaling components in insects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Smad Proteins / genetics
  • Smad Proteins / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*
  • Tribolium / embryology
  • Tribolium / genetics*
  • Vertebrates / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / genetics
  • Vertebrates / metabolism


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Smad Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta