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Timing of autophagy and apoptosis during posterior silk gland degeneration in Bombyx mori

Montali, Aurora, Romanelli, Davide, Cappellozza, Silvia, Grimaldi, Annalisa, de Eguileor, Magda, Tettamanti, Gianluca
Arthropod structure & development 2017 v.46 no.4 pp. 518-528
Bombyx mori, apoptosis, autophagy, fibroins, regulator genes, silk, silk glands, silkworms, spinning, technology, transcription (genetics)
Over the years, the silkworm, Bombyx mori, has been manipulated by means of chemical and genetic approaches to improve silk production both quantitatively and qualitatively. The silk is produced by the silk gland, which degenerates quickly once the larva has finished spinning the cocoon. Thus, interfering with this degeneration process could help develop new technologies aimed at ameliorating silk yield. To this end, in this work we studied the cell death processes that lead to the demise of the posterior silk gland of B. mori, directing in particular our attention to autophagy and apoptosis. We focused on this portion of the gland because it produces fibroin, the main component of the silk thread. By using multiple markers, we provide a morphological, biochemical and molecular characterization of the apoptotic and autophagic processes and define their timing in this biological setting.Our data demonstrate that the activation of both autophagy and apoptosis is preceded by a transcriptional rise in key regulatory genes. Moreover, while autophagy is maintained active for several days and progressively digests silk gland cells, apoptosis is only switched on at a very late stage of silk gland demise.