Polyembryonic development: Insect pattern formation in a cellularized environment

Miodrag Grbić, Lisa M. Nagy, Sean B. Carroll, Michael Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The polyembryonic wasp Copidosoma floridanum produces up to 2000 individuals from a single egg. During the production of individual embryos the original anteroposterior axis of the egg is lost and axial patterning must subsequently be reestablished within each embryo. The mechanism by which this occurs is unknown. In most insects, egg polarity is established during oogenesis and early development takes place in a syncytium. In Drosophila melanogaster, the syncytium is considered essential for establishing the morphogenetic gradients that initiate segmental patterning. However, we found that development of C. floridanum occurs almost exclusively in a cellularized environment. To determine whether the D. melanogaster patterning cascade is conserved in the absence of a syncytium, we analyzed the expression of Even-skipped, Engrailed and Ultrabithorax/Abdominal-A during polyembryonic development. Here we show that in spite of the absence of a syncytium, the elements of the D. melanogaster segmentation hierarchy are conserved. The segment-polarity gene Engrailed and the homeotic genes Ultrabithorax/Abdominal-A are expressed in a conserved pattern relative to D. melanogaster. However, we detect an alteration in the expression of the Even-skipped antigen. Even-skipped is initially expressed in segmentally reiterated stripes and not in a pair-rule pattern as it is in D. melanogaster. We also observe that the expression of these regulatory proteins does not occur during the early proliferative phases of polyembryony. Our results indicate that a syncytium is not required for segmental patterning in this insect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-804
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • Abdominal-A
  • Copidosoma floridanum
  • Engrailed
  • Even-skipped
  • Pattern formation
  • Polyembryonic development
  • Ultrabithorax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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