Genetic patterning in the adult capitate antenna of the beetle Tribolium castaneum

Dev Biol. 2009 Mar 1;327(1):240-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.10.047. Epub 2008 Nov 14.


Antenna structure varies widely among insects, in contrast to the well-conserved structure of legs. The adult capitate antenna of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, is composed of eleven articles, organized into four distinct morphological regions (scape, pedicel, funicle and club). Here, we report the use of RNA interference to examine the functions of 21 genes during antenna metamorphosis in T. castaneum. Genes with conserved functions relative to the developmental model species Drosophila melanogaster include Distal-less and EGF signaling (antennal growth), spineless (determination of antennal identity) and the Notch signaling pathway (antennal growth, joint formation, and sensory bristle development). However, the functions of many genes differed from those predicted from the Drosophila model. In addition to a conserved gap phenotype, depletion of dachshund transformed funicle articles toward club-like identity. Depletion of Distal-less or homothorax did not cause antenna-to-leg transformation. Lim1 was required only for development of the scape-pedicle joint. Depletion of odd-skipped-related genes led to the loss of the entire funicle, while spalt, rotund, spineless, and dachshund affected smaller regions. Growth and joint formation were linked developmentally in the funicle, but not in the club. Joint formation within the club required bric-a-brac, aristaless, apterous, and pdm. Gene functions are discussed in terms of a model of antenna development in T. castaneum. This model provides a contrast to knowledge of antenna development in D. melanogaster, insight into the likely ancestral mode of antenna development, and a framework for considering diverse antenna morphologies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Coleoptera
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Genes, Insect
  • Metamorphosis, Biological / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction