• anteroventral proliferation zone;
  • eye development;
  • eyes absent;
  • Gryllus bimaculatus;
  • RNA interference;
  • sine oculis

In the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus, a hemimetabolous insect, the compound eyes begin to form in the embryo and increase 5–6 fold in size during the postembryonic development of the nymphal stage. Retinal stem cells in the anteroventral proliferation zone (AVPZ) of the nymphal eye proliferate to increase retinal progenitors, which then differentiate to form new ommatidia in the anterior region of the eye. However, mechanisms underlying this type of eye formation have not been well elucidated yet. Here, we found that the homologues of the retinal determination transcription factor genes of eyes absent (eya) and sine oculis (so) are expressed during the cricket embryonic eye formation. eya is also expressed intensely in the AVPZ of the nymphal eye. To explore their functions, we performed knockdown by RNA interference (RNAi). Knockdown of Gbeya resulted in loss of the embryonic eye. In the nymphal eye, RNAi against Gbeya or Gbso impaired retinal morphology by apparently transforming cornea structures into head cuticle. These results imply that Gb’eya and Gb’so are essential for the differentiation of the retinal progenitor cells and maintaining retinal structures during eye development.