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Genetic Basis of Extra-Ocular Pigmentation in Semi-Aquatic Embryos

Abstract : The principal aim of this doctoral thesis was to understand the genetic basis for the diversification of the extra-ocular pigmentation in Gerromorpha embryos. Most of the semi-aquatic bugs develop a variability of yellow or red colours patterns in legs and antennas during the embryonic stage. Since the red colour in appendages was similar to the one present in eyes, we hypothesized that the extra-ocular colours could be produced by the co-option of the eye pigments biosynthesis pathway. First we inferred the evolutionary history of this trait based on its presence or absence in embryos of 34 species. We found that the ancestral state of the trait in Gerromorpha was yellow and that six independent lineages evolved bright red colour, while two lineages lost the colour. Using RNAi and in situ hybridisation on homologous genes from the pteridine and ommochrome biosynthesis pathways, we described the genetic pathway involved in the production of pigments in eyes and extra-ocular tissues in Limnogonus franciscanus embryos. After that, we performed a screening of three genes from this pathway in five other species with different extra-ocular colours and patterns. We discovered that the same pathway was recruited once to produce the diversity of patterns in Gerromorpha. Furthermore, we identified by UPLC-HRMS that xanthopterin and erythropterin pigments produce the variability of colours and patterns in different species. Our next step aimed to understand how the recruitment of a conserved pathway could produce this striking diversity of colour patterns. Using RNA-Seq technology and bioinformatics tools, we identified 167 transcription factors that are co-expressed in eyes, antennas and legs of embryos in Limnogonus franciscanus. These proteins might be involved in the regulation of genes responsible for the different colour patterns. We have started an RNAi screen of these transcription factors. This project is still ongoing but in this thesis I will present the preliminary results and conclusions.In conclusion, the pigmentation of semi-aquatic bugs during the embryonic stage is a good model to understand the co-option of pre-existing genetic pathways and underlying the question of how a conserved pathway could be regulated to produce diverse morphological phenotypes.
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Aidamalia Vargas Lowman. Genetic Basis of Extra-Ocular Pigmentation in Semi-Aquatic Embryos. Invertebrate Zoology. Université de Lyon, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LYSEN042⟩. ⟨tel-02339364⟩

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