Larval leg integrity is maintained by Distal-less and is required for proper timing of metamorphosis in the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum

Dev Biol. 2009 Feb 1;326(1):60-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.10.022. Epub 2008 Oct 30.


The dramatic transformation from a larva to an adult must be accompanied by a coordinated activity of genes and hormones that enable an orchestrated transformation from larval to pupal/adult tissues. The maintenance of larval appendages and their subsequent transformation to appendages in holometabolous insects remains elusive at the developmental genetic level. Here the role of a key appendage patterning gene Distal-less (Dll) was examined in mid- to late-larval stages of the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. During late larval development, Dll was expressed in appendages in a similar manner as previously reported for the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. Removal of this late Dll expression resulted in disruption of adult appendage patterning. Intriguingly, earlier removal resulted in dramatic loss of structural integrity and identity of larval appendages. A large amount of variability in appendage morphology was observed following Dll dsRNA injection, unlike larvae injected with dachshund dsRNA. These Dll dsRNA-injected larvae underwent numerous supernumerary molts, which could be terminated with injection of either JH methyltransferase or Methoprene-tolerant dsRNA. Apparently, the partial dedifferentiation of the appendages in these larvae acts to maintain high JH and, hence, prevents metamorphosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extremities / physiology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / drug effects
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / physiology*
  • Methoprene / pharmacology
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Tribolium / growth & development*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • Transcription Factors
  • distal-less protein, insect
  • Methoprene