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Keywords:

  • Tribolium castaneum;
  • chitin synthase;
  • RNAi;
  • peritrophic matrix;
  • cuticle

Abstract

Functional analysis of the two chitin synthase genes, TcCHS1 and TcCHS2, in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, revealed unique and complementary roles for each gene. TcCHS1-specific RNA interference (RNAi) disrupted all three types of moult (larval–larval, larval–pupal and pupal–adult) and greatly reduced whole-body chitin content. Exon-specific RNAi showed that splice variant 8a of TcCHS1 was required for both the larval-pupal and pupal-adult moults, whereas splice variant 8b was required only for the latter. TcCHS2-specific RNAi had no effect on metamorphosis or on total body chitin content. However, RNAi-mediated down-regulation of TcCHS2, but not TcCHS1, led to cessation of feeding, a dramatic shrinkage in larval size and reduced chitin content in the midgut.