Insects can be grouped into mainly two categories, holometabolous and hemimetabolous, according to the extent of their morphological change during metamorphosis. The three thoracic legs, for example, are known to develop through two overtly different pathways: holometabolous insects make legs through their imaginal discs, while hemimetabolous legs develop from their leg buds. Thus, how the molecular mechanisms of leg development differ from each other is an intriguing question. In the holometabolous long-germ insect, these mechanisms have been extensively studied using Drosophila melanogaster. However, little is known about the mechanism in the hemimetabolous insect. Thus, we studied leg development of the hemimetabolous short-germ insect, Gryllus bimaculatus (cricket), focusing on expression patterns of the three key signaling molecules, hedgehog (hh), wingless (wg) and decapentaplegic (dpp), which are essential during leg development in Drosophila. In Gryllus embryos, expression of hh is restricted in the posterior half of each leg bud, while dpp and wg are expressed in the dorsal and ventral sides of its anteroposterior (A/P) boundary, respectively. Their expression patterns are essentially comparable with those of the three genes in Drosophila leg imaginal discs, suggesting the existence of the common mechanism for leg pattern formation. However, we found that expression pattern of dpp was significantly divergent among Gryllus, Schistocerca (grasshopper) and Drosophila embryos, while expression patterns of hh and wg are conserved. Furthermore, the divergence was found between the pro/mesothoracic and metathoracic Gryllus leg buds. These observations imply that the divergence in the dpp expression pattern may correlate with diversity of leg morphology.

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