Functional Divergence of the Tribolium castaneum engrailed and invected Paralogs

Summer Blunk, Hector Garcia-Verdugo, Sierra O’Sullivan, James Camp, Michael Haines, Tara Coalter, Terri A. Williams, Lisa M. Nagy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Engrailed (en) and invected (inv) encode paralogous transcription factors found as a closely linked tandem duplication within holometabolous insects. Drosophila en mutants segment normally, then fail to maintain their segments. Loss of Drosophila inv is viable, while loss of both genes results in asegmental larvae. Surprisingly, the knockdown of Oncopeltus inv can result in the loss or fusion of the entire abdomen and en knockdowns in Tribolium show variable degrees of segmental loss. The consequence of losing or knocking down both paralogs on embryogenesis has not been studied beyond Drosophila. To further investigate the relative functions of each paralog and the mechanism behind the segmental loss, Tribolium double and single knockdowns of en and inv were analyzed. The most common cuticular phenotype of the double knockdowns was small, limbless, and open dorsally, with all but a single, segmentally iterated row of bristles. Less severe knockdowns had fused segments and reduced appendages. The Tribolium paralogs appear to act synergistically: the knockdown of either Tribolium gene alone was typically less severe, with all limbs present, whereas the most extreme single knockdowns mimic the most severe double knockdown phenotype. Morphological abnormalities unique to either single gene knockdown were not found. inv expression was not affected in the Tribolium en knockdowns, but hh expression was unexpectedly increased midway through development. Thus, while the segmental expression of en/inv is broadly conserved within insects, the functions of en and inv are evolving independently in different lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number691
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • engrailed
  • gene paralogs
  • invected
  • segment-polarity
  • sequential segmentation
  • Tribolium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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