The insect brain secretes prothoracicotropic hormone (PTTH), which stimulates the prothoracic gland to synthesize ecdysone. The active metabolite of ecdysone, 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), works through ecdysone receptor (EcR) and ultraspiracle (USP) to initiate molting and metamorphosis by regulating downstream genes. Previously, we found that EcR was expressed in the PTTH-producing neurosecretory cells (PTPCs) in larval brain of the silkworm Bombyx mori, suggesting that PTPCs function as the master cells of development under the regulation of 20E. To gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism of the 20E control of PTPCs, we performed a comprehensive screening of genes induced by 20E using DNA microarray with brains of day-2 fifth instar silkworm larvae. Forty-one genes showed greater than twofold changes caused by artificial application of 20E. A subsequent semiquantitative screening identified ten genes upregulated by 20E, four of which were novel or not previously identified as 20E-response genes. Developmental profiling determined that two genes, UP4 and UP5, were correlated with the endogenous ecdysteroid titer. Whole-mount in situ hybridization showed exclusive expression of these two genes in two pairs of cells in the larval brain in response to 20E-induction, suggesting that the cells are PTPCs. BLAST searches revealed that UP4 and UP5 are Bombyx homologs of vrille and tarsal-less, respectively. The present study identifies 20E-induced genes that may be involved in the ecdysone signal hierarchies underlying pupal-adult development and/or the 20E regulation of PTPCs.
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Vol. 29 • No. 5