Background: Aphids display "cyclic parthenogenesis," in which parthenogenetically and sexually reproducing morphs seasonally alternate in the aphid annual life cycles. There are various characteristics that differ between asexual viviparous and sexual oviparous females. In oviparous females, swollen cuticular structures (~ 10 μm in diameter), called "scent plaques," are scattered on the surface of hind tibias, and secrete monoterpenoid sex pheromones. However, the developmental processes of the pheromone glands and the biosynthetic pathways of monoterpenoid pheromones have yet to be elucidated. Results: Comparisons of the developmental processes that form hind tibias between sexual and parthenogenetic females revealed that, in sexual females, the epithelial tissues in proximal parts of hind tibias become columnar in fourth instar nymphs, and circular pheromone glands with Class 1 gland cells appear in adults, although they do not appear in parthenogenetic females. Furthermore, by comparing the expression levels of genes involved in the mevalonate pathway, which is required for monoterpenoid synthesis, we show that genes that encode the downstream enzymes in the pathway are highly expressed in hind tibias of sexual females. Conclusion: Glandular tissues of scent plaque are differentiated from the fourth instar in sexual females, while parthenogenetic females lack the glandular cells. Only the downstream steps of the mevalonate pathway appear to occur in scent plaques on hind tibias of sexual females, although the upstream steps may occur somewhere in other body parts.
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