There are several known non-molting mutations of the silkworm, Bombyx mori, including non-molting dwarf (nm-d). Larvae with this mutation hatch normally and start eating leaves, but die before the completion of the first ecdysis. Genetic analysis of the nm-d mutation would contribute to the isolation of essential genes for the larval development of lepidopteran insects. To identify the causative gene of the nm-d locus, we conducted RNA-seq based rough mapping. Using two sets of RNA-seq data, one from a pooled sample of normal larvae, and one from a pooled sample of nm-d larvae, the nm-d locus was narrowed to a 500 kb region. Among the genes located in this region, a nm-d-specific exon loss was identified in the Bombyx homolog of the ATIC (5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide transformylase/Inosine 5′-monophosphate cyclohydrolase) (BmATIC) gene, which catalyzes the final two steps of the de novo purine biosynthetic pathway in mammals. PCR and subsequent sequencing analysis revealed that a region containing exon 9 of the BmATIC gene is deleted in the nm-d larvae. A knockout allele of the BmATIC gene (BmATIC KO), that was generated using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, revealed that first instar knockout larvae died while exhibiting the dark brown larval body that is a typical feature of mutants that lack uric acid in the integument. Lethal larvae resulted from crosses between +/BmATIC KO moths. The uric acid content in the whole-body of the first instar was drastically reduced in the nm-d larvae compared to normal larvae. These results indicated that the BmATIC gene is responsible for the nm-d phenotype, and that nm-d larvae have a defect in purine biosynthesis, including uric acid. We also discuss the possibility that the BmATIC mRNA is maternally transmitted to eggs. Our results indicated that RNA-seq based mapping using pooled samples is a practical method for the identification of the causative genes of lethal mutations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Insect Science