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Keywords:

  • microRNA;
  • miRNA;
  • pigmentation;
  • patterning;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • eclosion

Abstract

Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally silence gene expression by binding to target mRNAs. Previous studies have identified the miRNA miR-8 as a pleiotropic regulator of Drosophila development, controlling body size and neuronal survival by targeting multiple mRNAs. In this study we demonstrate that miR-8 is also required for proper spatial patterning of pigment on the adult abdominal cuticle in females but not males. Results: Female adult flies lacking miR-8 exhibit decreased pigmentation of the dorsal abdomen, with a pattern of pigmentation similar to wild type flies grown at higher temperatures. This pigmentation defect in miR-8 mutants is independent of the previously reported body size defect, and miR-8 acts directly in the developing cuticle to regulate pigmentation patterning. The decrease in pigmentation in miR-8 mutants was more pronounced in flies grown at higher temperatures. We also found that loss of miR-8 dramatically affected the ability to eclose at higher temperatures. Conclusion: Loss of miR-8 increased the sensitivity of Drosophila to higher temperatures for both pigmentation patterning and the ability to eclose. Together, these data suggest that miR-8 acts as a buffer to stabilize gene expression patterns in the midst of environmental variation. Developmental Dynamics 241:161–168, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.