Understanding the evolution of the developmental programs active during dipteran embryogenesis depends on comparative studies. As a counterpoint to the intensively investigated and highly derived cyclorrhaphan flies that include the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, we are studying the basal Diptera Bradysia hygida, a member of the Sciaridae family that is amenable to laboratory cultivation. Here we describe the B. hygida embryogenesis, which lasts 9 days at 22 °C. The use of standard fixation D. melanogaster protocols resulted in embryos refractory to DAPI staining and to overcome this, a new enzyme-based method was developed. Calcofluor-White staining of enzimatically-treated embryos revealed that this method removes chitin from the serosal cuticle surrounding the B. hygida embryo. Chitin is one of the main components of serosal cuticles and searches in a B. hygida embryonic transcriptome database revealed conservation of the chitin synthesis pathway, further supporting the occurrence of chitin biosynthesis in B. hygida embryos. Combining the enzymatic treatment protocol with the use of both DIC and fluorescence microscopy allowed the first complete description of the B. hygida embryogenesis. Our results constitute an important step towards the understanding of early development of a basal Diptera and pave the way for future evo-devo studies.
Keywords: Chitin synthase; Embryogenesis; Sciaridae; Serosal cuticle.
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