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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gene up-regulation in response to predator kairomones in the water flea, Daphnia pulex

Hitoshi Miyakawa1, Maki Imai1, Naoki Sugimoto1, Yuki Ishikawa1, Asano Ishikawa1, Hidehiko Ishigaki1, Yasukazu Okada12, Satoshi Miyazaki13, Shigeyuki Koshikawa14, Richard Cornette15 and Toru Miura1*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate School of Environmental Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan

2 Graduate School of Environmental Science, Okayama University, Okayama, Okayama 700-8530, Japan

3 Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0818, Japan

4 Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

5 Anhydrobiosis Research Unit, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8634, Japan

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:45  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-45

Published: 30 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Numerous cases of predator-induced polyphenisms, in which alternate phenotypes are produced in response to extrinsic stimuli, have been reported in aquatic taxa to date. The genus Daphnia (Branchiopoda, Cladocera) provides a model experimental system for the study of the developmental mechanisms and evolutionary processes associated with predator-induced polyphenisms. In D. pulex, juveniles form neckteeth in response to predatory kairomones released by Chaoborus larvae (Insecta, Diptera).

Results

Previous studies suggest that the timing of the sensitivity to kairomones in D. pulex can generally be divided into the embryonic and postembryonic developmental periods. We therefore examined which of the genes in the embryonic and first-instar juvenile stages exhibit different expression levels in the presence or absence of predator kairomones. Employing a candidate gene approach and identifying differentially-expressed genes revealed that the morphogenetic factors, Hox3, extradenticle and escargot, were up-regulated by kairomones in the postembryonic stage and may potentially be responsible for defense morph formation. In addition, the juvenile hormone pathway genes, JHAMT and Met, and the insulin signaling pathway genes, InR and IRS-1, were up-regulated in the first-instar stage. It is well known that these hormonal pathways are involved in physiological regulation following morphogenesis in many insect species. During the embryonic stage when morphotypes were determined, one of the novel genes identified by differential display was up-regulated, suggesting that this gene may be related to morphotype determination. Biological functions of the up-regulated genes are discussed in the context of defense morph formation.

Conclusions

It is suggested that, following the reception of kairomone signals, the identified genes are involved in a series of defensive phenotypic alterations and the production of a defensive phenotype.