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Multi-level analysis of reproduction in an Antarctic midge identifies female and male accessory gland products that are altered by larval stress and impact progeny viability.

  • Author(s): Finch, Geoffrey;
  • Nandyal, Sonya;
  • Perretta, Carlie;
  • Davies, Benjamin;
  • Rosendale, Andrew J;
  • Holmes, Christopher J;
  • Gantz, JD;
  • Spacht, Drew E;
  • Bailey, Samuel T;
  • Chen, Xiaoting;
  • Oyen, Kennan;
  • Didion, Elise M;
  • Chakraborty, Souvik;
  • Lee, Richard E;
  • Denlinger, David L;
  • Matter, Stephen F;
  • Attardo, Geoffrey M;
  • Weirauch, Matthew T;
  • Benoit, Joshua B
  • et al.

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The Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica, is a wingless, non-biting midge endemic to Antarctica. Larval development requires at least 2 years, but adults live only 2 weeks. The nonfeeding adults mate in swarms and females die shortly after oviposition. Eggs are suspended in a gel of unknown composition that is expressed from the female accessory gland. This project characterizes molecular mechanisms underlying reproduction in this midge by examining differential gene expression in whole males, females, and larvae, as well as in male and female accessory glands. Functional studies were used to assess the role of the gel encasing the eggs, as well as the impact of stress on reproductive biology. RNA-seq analyses revealed sex- and development-specific gene sets along with those associated with the accessory glands. Proteomic analyses were used to define the composition of the egg-containing gel, which is generated during multiple developmental stages and derived from both the accessory gland and other female organs. Functional studies indicate the gel provides a larval food source as well as a buffer for thermal and dehydration stress. All of these function are critical to juvenile survival. Larval dehydration stress directly reduces production of storage proteins and key accessory gland components, a feature that impacts adult reproductive success. Modeling reveals that bouts of dehydration may have a significant impact on population growth. This work lays a foundation for further examination of reproduction in midges and provides new information related to general reproduction in dipterans. A key aspect of this work is that reproduction and stress dynamics, currently understudied in polar organisms, are likely to prove critical in determining how climate change will alter their survivability.

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