Background: Drosophila melanogaster undergoes a complete metamorphosis, during which time the larval male and female forms transition into sexually dimorphic, reproductive adult forms. To understand this complex morphogenetic process at a molecular-genetic level, whole genome microarray analyses were performed.
Results: The temporal gene expression patterns during metamorphosis were determined for all predicted genes, in both somatic and germline tissues of males and females separately. Temporal changes in transcript abundance for genes of known functions were found to correlate with known developmental processes that occur during metamorphosis. We find that large numbers of genes are sex-differentially expressed in both male and female germline tissues, and relatively few are sex-differentially expressed in somatic tissues. The majority of genes with somatic, sex-differential expression were found to be expressed in a stage-specific manner, suggesting that they mediate discrete developmental events. The Sex-lethal paralog, CG3056, displays somatic, male-biased expression at several time points in metamorphosis. Gene expression downstream of the somatic, sex determination genes transformer and doublesex (dsx) was examined in two-day old pupae, which allowed for the identification of genes regulated as a consequence of the sex determination hierarchy. These include the homeotic gene abdominal A, which is more highly expressed in females as compared to males, as a consequence of dsx. For most genes regulated downstream of dsx during pupal development, the mode of regulation is distinct from that observed for the well-studied direct targets of DSX, Yolk protein 1 and 2.
Conclusion: The data and analyses presented here provide a comprehensive assessment of gene expression during metamorphosis in each sex, in both somatic and germline tissues. Many of the genes that underlie critical developmental processes during metamorphosis, including sex-specific processes, have been identified. These results provide a framework for further functional studies on the regulation of sex-specific development.