Phase-related differences in egg production of the migratory locust regulated by differential oosorption through microRNA-34 targeting activinβ

PLoS Genet. 2021 Jan 6;17(1):e1009174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009174. eCollection 2021 Jan.


Outbreaks of locust plagues result from the long-term accumulation of high-density egg production. The migratory locust, Locusta migratoria, displays dramatic differences in the egg-laid number with dependence on population density, while solitarious locusts lay more eggs compared to gregarious ones. However, the regulatory mechanism for the egg-laid number difference is unclear. Herein, we confirm that oosorption plays a crucial role in the regulation of egg number through the comparison of physiological and molecular biological profiles in gregarious and solitarious locusts. We find that gregarious oocytes display a 15% higher oosorption ratio than solitarious ones. Activinβ (Actβ) is the most highly upregulated gene in the gregarious terminal oocyte (GTO) compared to solitarious terminal oocyte (STO). Meanwhile, Actβ increases sharply from the normal oocyte (N) to resorption body 1 (RB1) stage during oosorption. The knockdown of Actβ significantly reduces the oosorption ratio by 13% in gregarious locusts, resulting in an increase in the egg-laid number. Based on bioinformatic prediction and experimental verification, microRNA-34 with three isoforms can target Actβ. The microRNAs display higher expression levels in STO than those in GTO and contrasting expression patterns of Actβ from the N to RB1 transition. Overexpression of each miR-34 isoform leads to decreased Actβ levels and significantly reduces the oosorption ratio in gregarious locusts. In contrast, inhibition of the miR-34 isoforms results in increased Actβ levels and eventually elevates the oosorption ratio of solitarious locusts. Our study reports an undescribed mechanism of oosorption through miRNA targeting of a TGFβ ligand and provides new insights into the mechanism of density-dependent reproductive adaption in insects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Locusta migratoria / genetics*
  • Locusta migratoria / growth & development
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Oocytes / growth & development*
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Population Density
  • Reproduction / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs

Grant support

This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China grants (31970481 and 31572333) to WG, the Youth Innovation Promotion Association, CAS (No. 2016080) to WG. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.