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Identification and functional analysis of the doublesex gene in the sexual development of a hemimetabolous insect, the brown planthopper

Zhuo, Ji-Chong, Hu, Qing-Ling, Zhang, Hou-Hong, Zhang, Meng-Qiu, Jo, Song Bok, Zhang, Chuan-Xi
Insect biochemistry and molecular biology 2018 v.102 pp. 31-42
Nematoda, Nilaparvata lugens, RNA interference, abdomen, adults, alternative splicing, body size, courtship, females, genes, insects, males, nymphs, oligomerization, reproductive system, sex determination, sexual development, vertebrates
In the sex determination cascade, the genes dsx (doublesex) in insects, mab-3 (male abnormal 3) in nematodes, and Dmrt1 (dsx/mab-3 related transcription factor-1) in vertebrates act as the base molecular switches and play important roles. Moreover, these genes share the same conserved feature domain-DNA-binding oligomerization domain (OD1), and female-specific dsx also has a conserved oligomerization domain 2 (OD2). Although sex determination and the functions of dsx in several holometabolous insects have been well documented, sex determination and the function of dsx in hemimetabolous insects remain a mystery. In this study, four dsx homologs were unexpectedly found in the Nilaparvata lugens (brown planthopper, BPH, order Hemiptera), which also showed a different evolutionary status. We found that only one of the four homologs, Nldsx, which has three alternative splicing variants (female-specific NldsxF, male-specific NldsxM, non–sex-specific NldsxC), was required in the sexual development of N. lugens. Compared with that of holometabolous species, the dsx of N. lugens contains a less conserved OD1, while the OD2 domain of BPH was not identifiable because the common region is poorly conserved, and the female-specific region is short. RNAi-mediated knockdown of Nldsx in female BPH resulted in a larger body size with a normal abdomen and reproductive system, while no changes in fertility were noted. However, adult males with RNA interference knockdown of NldsxM in nymphs became pseudofemales, were infertile, had abnormal copulatory organs, and had impassable deferent ducts with hyperplastic walls; additionally, the pseudofemales could not produce the normal courtship signals. Our results suggest that dsx plays a critical role in male BPH somatic development and mating behavior. This is the first study to show that dsx is essential for sexual development in a hemipteran species.