Mitochondria dysfunction impairs Tribolium castaneum wing development during metamorphosis

Yaoyu Jiao, Subba Reddy Palli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The disproportionate growth of insect appendages such as facultative growth of wings and exaggeration of beetle horns are examples of phenotypic plasticity. Insect metamorphosis is the critical stage for development of pupal and adult structures and degeneration of the larval cells. How the disproportionate growth of external appendages is regulated during tissue remodeling remains unanswered. Tribolium castaneum is used as a model to study the function of mitochondria in metamorphosis. Mitochondrial dysfunction is achieved by the knockdown of key mitochondrial regulators. Here we show that mitochondrial function is not required for metamorphosis except that severe mitochondrial dysfunction blocks ecdysis. Surprisingly, various abnormal wing growth, including short and wingless phenotypes, are induced after knocking down mitochondrial regulators. Mitochondrial activity is regulated by IIS (insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling)/FOXO (forkhead box, sub-group O) pathway through TFAM (transcription factor A, mitochondrial). RNA sequencing and differential gene expression analysis show that wing-patterning and insect hormone response genes are downregulated, while programmed cell death and immune response genes are upregulated in insect wing discs with mitochondrial dysfunction. These studies reveal that mitochondria play critical roles in regulating insect wing growth by targeting wing development during metamorphosis, thus showing a novel molecular mechanism underlying developmental plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1252
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01GM070559 and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture (under HATCH Project 2351177000). Access to instruments and staff assistance for SEM was provided by the Electron Microscopy Center at the University of Kentucky, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), which is supported by the National Science Foundation (ECCS-1542164). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the granting agencies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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