In the hemimetabolous insect Locusta migratoria, fundamental restructuring occurs at the transition from flightless nymph to flight-capable adult. This transition involves all components of the flight circuit, which is present but not used for flight in nymphs. The meso- and metathoracic pleuroaxillary muscles, M85 and M114 respectively, constitute one component of this circuit. In the adult locust, these are flight-steering muscles, but their function in the nymph is as yet unknown. Our study reveals that adult and nymphal metathoracic pleuroaxillary muscles M114 differ profoundly. The nymphal muscle contains the distinct part M114c in addition to parts M114a and M114b characteristic of the adult. The contractions of M114c are slow and long-lasting, corresponding to its long sarcomeres and slow form of ATPase, and contrast with the adult muscle parts M114a and M114b in all of these features. We demonstrate a hormone-dependent degeneration of M114c after the adult moult. This degeneration can be blocked by actinomycin D and cycloheximide. It may thus be termed genetically programmed cell death, triggered after the adult moult and, as demonstrated here, functioning via the ATP-dependent ubiquitin pathway. Given the defined onset of degeneration after the adult moult, it is possible that M114c may fulfil a specific function in nymphs, during or shortly after moulting.

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