The developmental basis for allometry in insects.
Within all species of animals, the size of each organ bears a specific relationship to overall body size. These patterns of organ size relative to total body size are called static allometry and have enchanted biologists for centuries, yet the mechanisms generating these patterns have attracted little experimental study. We review recent and older work on holometabolous insect development that sheds light on these mechanisms. In insects, static allometry can be divided into at least two processes: (1) the autonomous specification of organ identity, perhaps including the approximate size of the organ, and (2) the determination of the final size of organs based on total body size. We present three models to explain the second process: (1) all organs autonomously absorb nutrients and grow at organ-specific rates, (2) a centralized system measures a close correlate of total body size and distributes this information to all organs, and (3) autonomous organ growth is combined with feedback between growing organs to modulate final sizes. We provide evidence supporting models 2 and 3 and also suggest that hormones are the messengers of size information. Advances in our understanding of the mechanisms of allometry will come through the integrated study of whole tissues using techniques from development, genetics, endocrinology and population biology. (+info
Novel regulation of the homeotic gene Scr associated with a crustacean leg-to-maxilliped appendage transformation.
Homeotic genes are known to be involved in patterning morphological structures along the antero-posterior axis of insects and vertebrates. Because of their important roles in development, changes in the function and expression patterns of homeotic genes may have played a major role in the evolution of different body plans. For example, it has been proposed that during the evolution of several crustacean lineages, changes in the expression patterns of the homeotic genes Ultrabithorax and abdominal-A have played a role in transformation of the anterior thoracic appendages into mouthparts termed maxillipeds. This homeotic-like transformation is recapitulated at the late stages of the direct embryonic development of the crustacean Porcellio scaber (Oniscidea, Isopoda). Interestingly, this morphological change is associated with apparent novelties both in the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of the Porcellio scaber ortholog of the Drosophila homeotic gene, Sex combs reduced (Scr). Specifically, we find that Scr mRNA is present in the second maxillary segment and the first pair of thoracic legs (T1) in early embryos, whereas protein accumulates only in the second maxillae. In later stages, however, high levels of SCR appear in the T1 legs, which correlates temporally with the transformation of these appendages into maxillipeds. Our observations provide further insight into the process of the homeotic leg-to-maxilliped transformation in the evolution of crustaceans and suggest a novel regulatory mechanism for this process in this group of arthropods. (+info
An overview of the evolution of overproduced esterases in the mosquito Culex pipiens.
Insecticide resistance genes have developed in a wide variety of insects in response to heavy chemical application. Few of these examples of adaptation in response to rapid environmental change have been studied both at the population level and at the gene level. One of these is the evolution of the overproduced esterases that are involved in resistance to organophosphate insecticides in the mosquito Culex pipiens. At the gene level, two genetic mechanisms are involved in esterase overproduction, namely gene amplification and gene regulation. At the population level, the co-occurrence of the same amplified allele in distinct geographic areas is best explained by the importance of passive transportation at the worldwide scale. The long-term monitoring of a population of mosquitoes in southern France has enabled a detailed study to be made of the evolution of resistance genes on a local scale, and has shown that a resistance gene with a lower cost has replaced a former resistance allele with a higher cost. (+info
The expiry date of man: a synthesis of evolutionary biology and public health.
In industrialised countries, mortality and morbidity are dominated by age related chronic degenerative diseases. The health and health care needs of future populations will be heavily determined by these conditions of old age. Two opposite scenarios of future morbidity exist: morbidity might decrease ("compress"), because life span is limited, and the incidence of disease is postponed. Or morbidity might increase ("expand"), because death is delayed more than disease incidence. Optimality theory in evolutionary biology explains senescence as a by product of an optimised life history. The theory clarifies how senescence is timed by the competing needs for reproduction and survival, and why this leads to a generalised deterioration of many functions at many levels. As death and disease are not independent, future morbidity will depend on duration and severity of the process of senescence, partly determined by health care, palliating the disease severity but increasing the disease duration by postponing death. Even if morbidity might be compressed, health care needs will surely expand. (+info
Molecular and evolutionary analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi 297 circular plasmid-encoded lipoproteins with OspE- and OspF-like leader peptides.
We previously described two OspE and three OspF homologs in Borrelia burgdorferi 297 (D. R. Akins, S. F. Porcella, T. G. Popova, D. Shevchenko, S. I. Baker, M. Li, M. V. Norgard, and J. D. Radolf, Mol. Microbiol. 18:507-520, 1995; D. R. Akins, K. W. Bourell, M. J. Caimano, M. V. Norgard, and J. D. Radolf, J. Clin. Investig. 101:2240-2250, 1998). In this study, we characterized four additional lipoproteins with OspE/F-like leader peptides (Elps) and demonstrated that all are encoded on plasmids homologous to cp32 and cp18 from the B31 and N40 strains, respectively. Statistical analysis of sequence similarities using the binary comparison algorithm revealed that the nine lipoproteins from strain 297, as well as the OspE, OspF, and Erp proteins from the N40 and B31 strains, fall into three distinct families. Based upon the observation that these lipoproteins all contain highly conserved leader peptides, we now propose that the ancestors of each of the three families arose from gene fusion events which joined a common N terminus to unrelated proteins. Additionally, further sequence analysis of the strain 297 circular plasmids revealed that rearrangements appear to have played an important role in generating sequence diversity among the members of these three families and that recombinational events in the downstream flanking regions appear to have occurred independently of those within the lipoprotein-encoding genes. The association of hypervariable regions with genes which are differentially expressed and/or subject to immunological pressures suggests that the Lyme disease spirochete has exploited recombinatorial processes to foster its parasitic strategy and enhance its immunoevasiveness. (+info
A family of S-methylmethionine-dependent thiol/selenol methyltransferases. Role in selenium tolerance and evolutionary relation.
Several plant species can tolerate high concentrations of selenium in the environment, and they accumulate organoselenium compounds. One of these compounds is Se-methylselenocysteine, synthesized by a number of species from the genus Astragalus (Fabaceae), like A. bisulcatus. An enzyme has been previously isolated from this organism that catalyzes methyl transfer from S-adenosylmethionine to selenocysteine. To elucidate the role of the enzyme in selenium tolerance, the cDNA coding for selenocysteine methyltransferase from A. bisulcatus was cloned and sequenced. Data base searches revealed the existence of several apparent homologs of hitherto unassigned function. The gene for one of them, yagD from Escherichia coli, was cloned, and the protein was overproduced and purified. A functional analysis showed that the YagD protein catalyzes methylation of homocysteine, selenohomocysteine, and selenocysteine with S-adenosylmethionine and S-methylmethionine as methyl group donors. S-Methylmethionine was now shown to be also the physiological methyl group donor for the A. bisulcatus selenocysteine methyltransferase. A model system was set up in E. coli which demonstrated that expression of the plant and, although to a much lesser degree, of the bacterial methyltransferase gene increases selenium tolerance and strongly reduces unspecific selenium incorporation into proteins, provided that S-methylmethionine is present in the medium. It is postulated that the selenocysteine methyltransferase under selective pressure developed from an S-methylmethionine-dependent thiol/selenol methyltransferase. (+info
Kodamaea nitidulidarum, Candida restingae and Kodamaea anthophila, three new related yeast species from ephemeral flowers.
Three new yeast species were discovered during studies of yeasts associated with ephemeral flowers in Brazil, Australia and Hawaii. Their physiological and morphological similarity to Kodamaea (Pichia) ohmeri suggested a possible relationship to that species, which was confirmed by rDNA sequencing. Kodamaea nitidulidarum and Candida restingae were found in cactus flowers and associated nitidulid beetles in sand dune ecosystems (restinga) of South-eastern Brazil. Over 350 strains of Kodamaea anthophila were isolated from Hibiscus and morning glory flowers (Ipomoea spp.) in Australia, and from associated nitidulid beetles and Drosophila hibisci. A single isolate came from a beach morning glory in Hawaii. Expansion of the genus Kodamaea to three species modified the existing definition of the genus only slightly. The type and isotype strains are as follows: K. nitidulidarum strains UFMG96-272T (h+; CBS 8491T) and UFMG96-394I (h-; CBS 8492I); Candida restingae UFMG96-276T (CBS 8493T); K. anthophila strains UWO(PS)95-602.1T (h+; CBS 8494T), UWO(PS)91-893.2I (h-; CBS 8495I) and UWO(PS)95-725.1I (h-; CBS 8496I). (+info
Reticulate evolution and the origins of ribosomal internal transcribed spacer diversity in apomictic Meloidogyne.
Among root knot nematodes of the genus Meloidogyne, the polyploid obligate mitotic parthenogens M. arenaria, M. javanica, and M. incognita are widespread and common agricultural pests. Although these named forms are distinguishable by closely related mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes, detailed sequence analyses of internal transcribed spacers (ITSs) of nuclear ribosomal genes reveal extremely high diversity, even within individual nematodes. This ITS diversity is broadly structured into two very different groups that are 12%-18% divergent: one with low diversity (< 1.0%) and one with high diversity (6%-7%). In both of these groups, identical sequences can be found within individual nematodes of different mtDNA haplotypes (i.e., among species). Analysis of genetic variance indicates that more than 90% of ITS diversity can be found within an individual nematode, with small but statistically significant (5%-10%; P < 0.05) variance distributed among mtDNA lineages. The evolutionarily distinct parthenogen M. hapla shows a similar pattern of ITS diversity, with two divergent groups of ITSs within each individual. In contrast, two diploid amphimictic species have only one lineage of ITSs with low diversity (< 0.2%). The presence of divergent lineages of rDNA in the apomictic taxa is unlikely to be due to differences among pseudogenes. Instead, we suggest that the diversity of ITSs in M. arenaria, M. javanica, and M. incognita is due to hybrid origins from closely related females (as inferred from mtDNA) and combinations of more diverse paternal lineages. (+info