Open Access Research article

Sexual and asexual oogenesis require the expression of unique and shared sets of genes in the insect Acyrthosiphon pisum

Aurore Gallot1, Shuji Shigenobu2, Tomomi Hashiyama2, Stéphanie Jaubert-Possamai1* and Denis Tagu1*

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, UMR 1349 IGEPP, Institut de Génétique Environnement et Protection des Plantes, 35653 Le Rheu cedex, France

2 Okazaki Institute for Integrative Bioscience, National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Higashiyama, Myodaiji, Okazaki, 444-8787, Japan

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-76

Published: 15 February 2012



Although sexual reproduction is dominant within eukaryotes, asexual reproduction is widespread and has evolved independently as a derived trait in almost all major taxa. How asexuality evolved in sexual organisms is unclear. Aphids, such as Acyrthosiphon pisum, alternate between asexual and sexual reproductive means, as the production of parthenogenetic viviparous females or sexual oviparous females and males varies in response to seasonal photoperiodism. Consequently, sexual and asexual development in aphids can be analyzed simultaneously in genetically identical individuals.


We compared the transcriptomes of aphid embryos in the stages of development during which the trajectory of oogenesis is determined for producing sexual or asexual gametes. This study design aimed at identifying genes involved in the onset of the divergent mechanisms that result in the sexual or asexual phenotype. We detected 33 genes that were differentially transcribed in sexual and asexual embryos. Functional annotation by gene ontology (GO) showed a biological signature of oogenesis, cell cycle regulation, epigenetic regulation and RNA maturation. In situ hybridizations demonstrated that 16 of the differentially-transcribed genes were specifically expressed in germ cells and/or oocytes of asexual and/or sexual ovaries, and therefore may contribute to aphid oogenesis. We categorized these 16 genes by their transcription patterns in the two types of ovaries; they were: i) expressed during sexual and asexual oogenesis; ii) expressed during sexual and asexual oogenesis but with different localizations; or iii) expressed only during sexual or asexual oogenesis.


Our results show that asexual and sexual oogenesis in aphids share common genetic programs but diverge by adapting specificities in their respective gene expression profiles in germ cells and oocytes.