Notch/Delta signalling is not required for segment generation in the basally branching insect Gryllus bimaculatus

Development. 2011 Nov;138(22):5015-26. doi: 10.1242/dev.073395.


Arthropods and vertebrates display a segmental body organisation along all or part of the anterior-posterior axis. Whether this reflects a shared, ancestral developmental genetic mechanism for segmentation is uncertain. In vertebrates, segments are formed sequentially by a segmentation 'clock' of oscillating gene expression involving Notch pathway components. Recent studies in spiders and basal insects have suggested that segmentation in these arthropods also involves Notch-based signalling. These observations have been interpreted as evidence for a shared, ancestral gene network for insect, arthropod and bilaterian segmentation. However, because this pathway can play multiple roles in development, elucidating the specific requirements for Notch signalling is important for understanding the ancestry of segmentation. Here we show that Delta, a ligand of the Notch pathway, is not required for segment formation in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus, which retains ancestral characteristics of arthropod embryogenesis. Segment patterning genes are expressed before Delta in abdominal segments, and Delta expression does not oscillate in the pre-segmental region or in formed segments. Instead, Delta is required for neuroectoderm and mesectoderm formation; embryos missing these tissues are developmentally delayed and show defects in segment morphology but normal segment number. Thus, what initially appear to be 'segmentation phenotypes' can in fact be due to developmental delays and cell specification errors. Our data do not support an essential or ancestral role of Notch signalling in segment generation across the arthropods, and show that the pleiotropy of the Notch pathway can confound speculation on possible segmentation mechanisms in the last common bilaterian ancestor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / embryology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biological Clocks / genetics
  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Cleavage Stage, Ovum* / metabolism
  • Cleavage Stage, Ovum* / physiology
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Gryllidae / embryology*
  • Gryllidae / genetics
  • Gryllidae / metabolism
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Notch / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism
  • Receptors, Notch / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Notch
  • delta protein