The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 413 - 421 (2006)

Vol 50, Issue 4

Germ-plasm specification and germline development in the parthenogenetic pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum: Vasa and Nanos as markers

Original Article | Published: 1 March 2006

Chun-che Chang1,*, Wen-chih Lee2, Charles E. Cook3, Gee-way Lin1 and Tschining Chang4

1Laboratory for Genetics and Development, Department of Entomology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, 2Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, 3University Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge, U.K. and 4Institute of Biological Chemistry, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan


The germarium, oocytes and embryos of the parthenogenetic viviparous pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum are contained within a single ovariole. This species provides an excellent model for studying how maternally-inherited germ plasm is specified and how it is transferred to primordial germ cells. Previous studies have shown that germ cells are first segregated at the embryonic posterior after formation of the blastoderm. We used two cross-reacting antibodies against the conserved germline markers Vasa and Nanos, which specifically identified these presumptive germ cells, to investigate whether germ cells were determined during early development. We observed randomly-distributed weak expression of Vasa signals in the developing oocyte but no localization in the oocyte segregated from the germarium. Localized Vasa was not apparent until it was detected at the posterior in the embryo undergoing the second nuclear division. Nanos, on the other hand, was localized to a nuage-like structure surrounding the nucleus in the developing and segregated oocytes. At the beginning of the oocyte maturation division, Nanos localization shifted to the posterior and could be identified in successive stages until it was incorporated into the germ cells. Taken together, our results suggest that germ plasm is specified in the developing oocyte and that Nanos is an earlier germline marker than Vasa. Germ cells stained for Vasa remained at a dorsal location in the egg during mid-development and then were guided into abdominal segments A1 to A6 during germ-band retraction. We infer that germ cells coalesce with segmented gonadal mesoderm during this period.


Acyrthosiphon pisum, pea aphid, germ cell, Vasa, Nanos

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