The microRNA miR-8 is a positive regulator of pigmentation and eclosion in Drosophila

Dev Dyn. 2012 Jan;241(1):161-8. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23705.


Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally silence gene expression by binding to target mRNAs. Previous studies have identified the miRNA miR-8 as a pleiotropic regulator of Drosophila development, controlling body size and neuronal survival by targeting multiple mRNAs. In this study we demonstrate that miR-8 is also required for proper spatial patterning of pigment on the adult abdominal cuticle in females but not males.

Results: Female adult flies lacking miR-8 exhibit decreased pigmentation of the dorsal abdomen, with a pattern of pigmentation similar to wild type flies grown at higher temperatures. This pigmentation defect in miR-8 mutants is independent of the previously reported body size defect, and miR-8 acts directly in the developing cuticle to regulate pigmentation patterning. The decrease in pigmentation in miR-8 mutants was more pronounced in flies grown at higher temperatures. We also found that loss of miR-8 dramatically affected the ability to eclose at higher temperatures.

Conclusion: Loss of miR-8 increased the sensitivity of Drosophila to higher temperatures for both pigmentation patterning and the ability to eclose. Together, these data suggest that miR-8 acts as a buffer to stabilize gene expression patterns in the midst of environmental variation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / growth & development*
  • Female
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Transgenes


  • MicroRNAs
  • mir-8 microRNA, Drosophila