Toll ligand Spätzle3 controls melanization in the stripe pattern formation in caterpillars

Yûsuke Kondo, Shinichi Yoda, Takayuki Mizoguchi, Toshiya Ando, Junichi Yamaguchi, Kimiko Yamamoto, Yutaka Banno, Haruhiko Fujiwara

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30 Citations (Scopus)


A stripe pattern is an aposematic or camouflage coloration often observed among various caterpillars. However, how this ecologically important pattern is formed is largely unknown. The silkworm dominant mutant Zebra (Ze) has a black stripe in the anterior margin of each dorsal segment. Here, fine linkage mapping of 3,135 larvae revealed a 63-kbp region responsible for the Ze locus, which contained three candidate genes, including the Toll ligand gene spät-zle3 (spz-3). Both electroporation-mediated ectopic expression and RNAi analyses showed that, among candidate genes, only processed spz-3 induced melanin pigmentation and that Toll-8 was the candidate receptor gene of spz-3. This Toll ligand/receptor set is also involved in melanization of other mutant Striped (pS), which has broader stripes. Additional knockdown of 5 other spz family and 10 Toll-related genes caused no drastic change in the pigmentation of either mutant, suggesting that only spz-3/Toll-8 is mainly involved in the melanization process rather than pattern formation. The downstream pigmentation gene yellow was specifically up-regulated in the striped region of the Ze mutant, but spz-3 showed no such region-specific expression. Toll signaling pathways are known to be involved in innate immunity, dorsoventral axis formation, and neurotrophic functions. This study provides direct evidence that a Toll signaling pathway is co-opted to control the melanization process and adaptive striped pattern formation in caterpillars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8336-8341
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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