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Doublesex (dsx) is the bottom most gene of the sex determination cascade of Drosophila melanogaster. The pre-mRNA of dsx splices to produce male- and female-specific transcripts which code for the male- and female-specific proteins, respectively. dsx homologues have been characterized from different (many in Diptera, two in Hypmenoptera and only one in Lepidoptera) insect species. Sex-specific splice forms of dsx pre-mRNA in all these species code for one male and one female-specific DSX proteins, which regulate the downstream target genes responsible for sex-specific characters. In the present study we have cloned and characterized the dsx homologues from two saturniid silkmoths, Antheraea assama and A. mylitta. The divergence time between Saturniidae and Bombycidae to which the domesticated silkworm, B. mori belongs is estimated to be around 160.9 MY. Interestingly, the dsx pre-mRNA of these wild silkmoths sex-specifically splices to generate multiple splice variants. On the basis of their open reading frame (ORF) and conceptual translation, two female-specific (DSX(F1) and DSX(F2)) and one male- specific (DSX(M)) proteins could be inferred, in both the moths. Presence or absence of a 15bp stretch within the ORF of the two groups of female-specific transcripts resulted in the production of two distinct female-specific DSX proteins. The sex-specific DSX proteins have common amino-terminal sequence but sex-specific carboxy termini. The two female-specific DSX proteins (DSX(F1) and DSX(F2)) share common DNA binding domain (DM domain) and oligomerisation domain (OD domain) and differ only at their extreme C-termini by 21aa. Functional analysis of dsx transcripts in A. assama by dsRNA mediated knock-down resulted in complete abolition of expression of vitellogenin and hexamerin genes, the direct targets of the DSX proteins, irregular differentiation of gonads, and drastic reduction in fecundity and hatchability. Together, these results suggest the involvement of both the female-specific DSX proteins in the process of female sexual differentiation. Further, conservation of the 4th exon sequence, especially the PESS sequence responsible for the sex-specific splicing of Bmdsx in the female-specific transcripts of Aadsx and Amydsx, indicated the existence of a common mechanism of sex-specific splicing of dsx homologues in silkmoths. To our knowledge this is the first report of existence of multiple splice forms of dsx pre-mRNA encoding two female-specific DSX proteins.
Centre of Excellence for Genetics and Genomics of Silkmoths, Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Tuljaguda, Nampally, Hyderabad 500001, India.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Insect biochemistry and molecular biology
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