The torso-like gene functions to maintain the structure of the vitelline membrane in Nasonia vitripennis, implying its co-option into Drosophila axis formation

Shannon E. Taylor, Jack Tuffery, Daniel Bakopoulos, Sharon Lequeux, Coral G. Warr, Travis K. Johnson, Peter K. Dearden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Axis specification is a fundamental developmental process. Despite this, the mechanisms by which it is controlled across insect taxa are strikingly different. An excellent example of this is terminal patterning, which in Diptera such as Drosophila melanogaster occurs via the localized activation of the receptor tyrosine kinase Torso. In Hymenoptera, however, the same process appears to be achieved via localized mRNA. How these mechanisms evolved and what they evolved from remains largely unexplored. Here, we show that torsolike, known for its role in Drosophila terminal patterning, is instead required for the integrity of the vitelline membrane in the hymenopteran wasp Nasonia vitripennis. We find that other genes known to be involved in Drosophila terminal patterning, such as torso and Ptth, also do not function in Nasonia embryonic development. These findings extended to orthologues of Drosophila vitelline membrane proteins known to play a role in localizing Torso-like in Drosophila; in Nasonia these are instead required for dorso–ventral patterning, gastrulation and potentially terminal patterning. Our data underscore the importance of the vitelline membrane in insect development, and implies phenotypes caused by knockdown of torso-like must be interpreted in light of its function in the vitelline membrane. In addition, our data imply that the signalling components of the Drosophila terminal patterning systems were co-opted from roles in regulating moulting, and co-option into terminal patterning involved the evolution of a novel interaction with the vitelline membrane protein Torso-like.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbio046284
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBiology Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Axis formation
  • Drosophila
  • Evolution of development
  • Nasonia
  • Terminal patterning
  • Vitelline membrane

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