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ABSTRACT

Aphids exhibit several polyphenisms in which discontinuous, alternative phenotypes are produced depending on environmental conditions. One representative example is the wing polyphenism, where winged and wingless females are produced through parthenogenesis. Previous work has shown that, in some aphid species, the density condition sensed by the mother aphid determines the developmental fate of embryos in her ovary, with high densities leading to winged progeny and low densities to wingless progeny. However, little is known about the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying the wing polyphenism. To identify genes involved in the wing-morph determination in the vetch aphid, Megoura crassicauda, we compared maternal and embryonic transcripts between high- and low-density conditions using differential display, followed by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Under the high-density condition, two genes (Uba1 and Naca) were found to be upregulated in maternal tissues without ovaries, while one gene (ClpP) was upregulated in ovaries containing embryos. Uba1 and Naca encode factors that function in protein modification or transcriptional/translational regulation, respectively. In addition to differential display, candidate gene approaches focusing on morphogenetic and endocrine genes, i.e., wg, dpp, ap, hh, InR, IRS, Foxo, EcR, and USP, were also carried out. We found that wg was upregulated in maternal tissues under the high-density condition. The identified genes from both approaches are candidates for further study of their involvement in the transduction of density signals in mother aphids and/or the initial process of wing differentiation in embryos. J. Exp. Zool. 317:194–203, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.