In a previous study, we found that the embryonic cuticle of Rhodnius prolixus is a chitin-based structure that helps the first instar nymph to hatch from the chorion. Here, we investigated how the reduction of transcripts induced by CHS dsRNA injection affects R. prolixus embryogenesis and eclosion. Deposition of chitin in the embryonic cuticle begins later at embryogenesis, around day 8, and ends approximately at day 15, when the insects are ready for eclosion. In R. prolixus, chitin deposition follows pari passu with the synthesis of the chitin synthase mRNA, indicating a regulation at the transcriptional level. The reduction of the chitin synthase gene transcripts by the injection of CHS dRNA prevented chitin deposition during embryonic cuticle formation, being lethal to hatching nymphs, which end up dying while stuck in the chorionic border trying to leave the chorion. The successful eclosion rates were reduced by 60% in animals treated with CHS dsRNA when compared to animals injected with a control (dsRNA no related gene or water). We found that the harmful effects on oviposition and eclosion are possibly due to changes in the structure of the embryonic cuticle, as observed by directly comparing the morphology of control and chitin-deficient embryonic cuticles under the transmission electron microscope. The lack of chitin and changes in its morphological characteristics appears to alter the embryonic cuticle physiology and functionality. Additionally, we observed that the effects of CHS dRNA treatment on R. prolixus females lasted up to 3 egg-laying cycles (∼100 days), pointing to R. prolixus as a useful model for developmental studies.
Keywords: Chitin synthase; Eclosion; Embryogenesis; Embryonic cuticle; Rhodnius prolixus; dsRNA.
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