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Open Access Research article

Analysis of four achaete-scute homologs in Bombyx mori reveals new viewpoints of the evolution and functions of this gene family

Qingxiang Zhou1, Tianyi Zhang2, Weihua Xu2, Linlin Yu1, Yongzhu Yi1 and Zhifang Zhang1*

Author Affiliations

1 The Biotechnology Research Institute, National Engineering of crop germplasm and genetic improvement, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, 100081, China

2 State Key Laboratory for Biocontrol and Institute of Entomology, School of Life Sciences, SUN YAT-SEN University, Guangzhou 510275, China

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BMC Genetics 2008, 9:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-9-24

Published: 6 March 2008



achaete-scute complexe (AS-C) has been widely studied at genetic, developmental and evolutional levels. Genes of this family encode proteins containing a highly conserved bHLH domain, which take part in the regulation of the development of central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Many AS-C homologs have been isolated from various vertebrates and invertebrates. Also, AS-C genes are duplicated during the evolution of Diptera. Functions besides neural development controlling have also been found in Drosophila AS-C genes.


We cloned four achaete-scute homologs (ASH) from the lepidopteran model organism Bombyx mori, including three proneural genes and one neural precursor gene. Proteins encoded by them contained the characteristic bHLH domain and the three proneural ones were also found to have the C-terminal conserved motif. These genes regulated promoter activity through the Class A E-boxes in vitro. Though both Bm-ASH and Drosophila AS-C have four members, they are not in one by one corresponding relationships. Results of RT-PCR and real-time PCR showed that Bm-ASH genes were expressed in different larval tissues, and had well-regulated expressional profiles during the development of embryo and wing/wing disc.


There are four achaete-scute homologs in Bombyx mori, the second insect having four AS-C genes so far, and these genes have multiple functions in silkworm life cycle. AS-C gene duplication in insects occurs after or parallel to, but not before the taxonomic order formation during evolution.