Hox genes limit germ cell formation in the short germ insect Gryllus bimaculatus

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Aug 13;116(33):16430-16435. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1816024116. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


Hox genes are conserved transcription factor-encoding genes that specify the identity of body regions in bilaterally symmetrical animals. In the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus, a member of the hemimetabolous insect group Orthoptera, the induction of a subset of mesodermal cells to form the primordial germ cells (PGCs) is restricted to the second through the fourth abdominal segments (A2 to A4). In numerous insect species, the Hox genes Sex-combs reduced (Scr), Antennapedia (Antp), Ultrabithorax (Ubx), and abdominal-A (abd-A) jointly regulate the identities of middle and posterior body segments, suggesting that these genes may restrict PGC formation to specific abdominal segments in G. bimaculatus Here we show that reducing transcript levels of some or all of these Hox genes results in supernumerary and/or ectopic PGCs, either individually or in segment-specific combinations, suggesting that the role of these Hox genes is to limit PGC development with respect to their number, segmental location, or both. These data provide evidence of a role for this ancient group of genes in PGC development.

Keywords: Gryllus bimaculatus; Hox; evo-devo; germ cells; insect.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence / genetics
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Genes, Homeobox / genetics
  • Germ Cells / growth & development*
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Gryllidae / genetics*
  • Gryllidae / growth & development
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / growth & development


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Insect Proteins